CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea –Due to the global pandemic, COVID 19, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Far East District (FED) has reduced its manpower to mission essential only reporting to the office daily. In an effort to stop the spread of the virus, many district employees have adopted a telework schedule.
Telework also known as telecommuting is a work arrangement in which employees do not commute or travel to a central place of work, such as an office building, warehouse or store.
Many district employees admit that there was an adjustment period to getting accustomed to their new work structure, but they are finding ways to adjust in continuing to support the district’s mission.
“Telework in the first week was very hard because of new work environment but this week, I am getting used to working at home,” said Hur, Myo Boon, an architectural section chief.
Hur went on to share ways she found to do telework such as finding a good place to focus on her work while at home. She stated that she chose to work in a closet located in her master bedroom, because it was an empty space with a built-in table and electrical outlets. She went on to state that the space is very quiet and also a perfect space to hide from her six-year-old son.
“I found a regular time to focus on work,” said Hur. “I cannot work at home like in the office because I should also help my six-year-old son who is a kindergartner take online classes and do his homework. So I start working 0500 to 0900 before my son wakes up. I help him with his online classes and homework for two hours in the morning and come back to work while my other family members play with him in the afternoon. Work time is flexible but I try to work in regular time.”
As a supervisor, Hur stated that she has the responsibility to help her employees to work without any issues during the telework schedule. She is also responsible for keeping track of their work status and productivity for design projects.
“I set up KaKao group chat room for my section as a tool for communication. Since my section and I never expected telework before this special situation, we did not have any video/voice conference software on our government laptops,” said Hur. I created an excel spreadsheet for daily check in and weekly work plans. Every morning, when they check in, they fill out their daily work schedule. Every Friday afternoon when they check out, they fill out their work plan for upcoming week. From this spreadsheet, I can track their work status as well as productivity.”
Hur has incorporated new habits in her daily routine during this time as a way to cope with the work/life balance of being at home.
“I go outside and get some fresh air at least once a day, and I think that my second job has become being a kindergarten teacher,” said Hur.
Kwon, Yong Chin, a computer engineer, also shared some ways he has adjusted to the telework schedule.
“I think I am doing well,” said Kwon. “I believe I can do telework because we have well installed IT infrastructure, great support from the IMO helpdesk, and wonderful leadership.”
Kwon went on to state that the leadership of the design branch encouraged preparation of possible telework and had several meetings to finding alternative ways to operate.
“Specially, we considered network performance for handling a lot of drawings and IT environment for high performance application,” said Kwon. “We checked possible alternatives, assuming problems that will arise. A few engineers had set up a plan to bring their large monitors home.”
Setting up tools and providing training for the design branch staff to help share drawings, and finding ways to communicate were a few of Kwon’s responsibilities to ensure operations of his section continued during the telework schedule.
“It didn’t take much time to setup, because design branch had a few tests, preparing guidance and meetings in advance,” said Kwon. “We downloaded the required project drawing, set up a way to share files, established communication methods, tested network performance on the VPN and tried to find efficient techniques in handling large size design files.”
Kwon has also incorporated new daily habits into his routine since working from home.
“During telework, I can have breakfast and say hello to my family,” said Kwon. Prior to telework, I usually have to wake up at 4:40 a.m. and leave home at 5:00 a.m. to go to office. Another one is that I don’t need to wear shoes except one time to visit parent’s home for teleworking. I stay at home like a space ship without an opening gate.”
FED employees will continue to telework until the virus threat lessens, however, the district will continue to find innovative ways to deliver engineering solutions in the Republic of Korea to secure our allies and our nation.