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Telework is the norm for Huntsville Center workforce

Huntsville Center Public Affairs
Published April 6, 2020
Don Monk, a project management specialist with Huntsville Center's Medical Outfitting and Transition Division, delivers the program from his home office in Birmingham, Ala. Monk has been teleworking regularly for years and has a set routine.

Don Monk, a project management specialist with Huntsville Center's Medical Outfitting and Transition Division, delivers the program from his home office in Birmingham, Ala. Monk has been teleworking regularly for years and has a set routine.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.--Huntsville Center transitioned to maximum telework in late March. This measure is consistent with U.S. Army and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers guidance and founded upon caring for the safety and welfare of the work force while still delivering programs.

For some employees, working from “Fort Living Room” is a relatively new way of doing business. 

For Sharleene Davidson, a project management specialist with Medical Outfitting and Transition Division, working from home has been an adjustment.

She now sees how important time management skills are, while balancing work duties and family needs.

“While I am still keeping up with my work load, I find it hard to work during my normal working hours,” she said.

“With kids still having to continue their school work, I have to balance school time and work time,” she added. “There are the normal occurrences with having kids, but it can at times make conference calls and other duties a challenge.”

 Davidson said her team’s communication has rallied since the first week of teleworking.

“With computer networks working well, we talk a lot and we are able to communicate openly,” she said.

Another project manager with MO&T, Don Monk, said he’s “a little ahead of the curve,” as he has been on regular recurring telework for several years.

However, having his family home too is causing a change to his telework routine.

“Usually, I am alone on my scheduled telework days, so there are no distractions. But like others, I have three folks with me now for an indefinite period of time, either working remotely or on distance learning,” he said.

Monk still stays to his routine and suggests that what works for him may work for others.

“I start as early as I can and make it like a normal day as if I am heading to the office,” he said.

Monk plans ahead for tasks he needs to accomplish and sticks as closely as possible to that set of tasks.

“If it’s possible, having a home office, is crucial for one’s ability to accomplish work tasks,” he adds.

“My office is upstairs in the bonus room. I’m set up in an uncluttered, workable office with a docking station, keyboard, and multiple monitors,” he said. “I have an ergonomic chair and reliable high-speed internet, and the best thing about it is that at the end of the day, I just walk away from it.”

Monk said the telework agreement he and his supervisor set together points him in the right direction.

“I know what my schedule will be. I stick to that schedule and maintain a good work/life balance. It works for me and I would do it every day (during normal times) if I could,” Monk said.

He admit he does miss the camaraderie associated with working for the MO&T team.

“The biggest difference is not being with your people in person,” he said.

To stay connected during teleworking, Monk said his team made it a point to hold a daily morning conference call to share general information for the day.

“Our branch chief also set up a text string on our government devices for us to communicate quickly and stay in touch, outside of email. We felt like over-communicating would be critical to our continued success in this new environment. It i’s working really well!”

Monk said communication with stakeholders has been working well since the telework order was instituted.

“Each project manager has been in contact with the stakeholders on all of our active projects, and our branch chief and program manager are communicating with Defense Health Agency at the highest levels possible,” he said.

Monk said the biggest challenge is that situations are changing daily, if not hourly, for M&OT projects.

Many contractors are working MO&T projects based on local municipality status, and how that relates to project status has a huge effect on MO&T projects around the world.

“We are proactively working to capture this information on a daily basis to communicate with DHA leadership, maintain continuity of day-to-day business, and demonstrate our commitment to supporting the medical mission at Huntsville Center.

The Center’s medical division was one of the first USACE organizations contacted to support the coronavirus response efforts, the 4,000-plus projects overseen and directed by the Center’s employees continue as the response efforts continue and employees work from home.

Amanda Sticker, a civil engineer in the Engineering Directorate, said for her, the new norm of teleworking is based on “patience, grace and flexibility.”

“For my projects, our contractors have been amazing,” Sticker said.

“They continue to execute the mission, adapting where needed.  My conversations with our contractors and stakeholders have become more personal now.  We're all asking how everyone's doing and if they're adapting okay