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Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

  • 1.  Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-20-2020 08:32
    Many professionals are working from home because of the pandemic.  This is a huge transition in everyone's work experience.  I know that adjusting to working remotely was one of my biggest challenges when I left the corporate world to start my independent consulting business in mid-2018.  One thing that helped me greatly with that adjustment was to hear how other people dealt with their challenges to successfully work remotely.

    So, please share your challenges and successes.  Topics can include:
    • Your home "office" - workstation and ergonomics
    • Maintaining contact with your work colleagues - both project-related and "coffee break / water cooler"
    • Conducting remote meetings
    • Getting done what you need to get done
    • Your new "work-life balance" - Dealing with distractions from work and home (spouse, children, pets) and society (pandemic)

    Looking forward to sharing and hearing your challenges and experiences.  Most importantly, stay safe and take care of yourself and loved ones in these challenging times.

    Aaron Sarafinas
    Sarafinas Process & Mixing Consulting LLC
    Warminster PA

  • 2.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-20-2020 10:22
    One of the challenges I think people are going to face with remote working is isolation.  I've been a one-person consulting firm since 1995 and I love it, but isolation is a thing...   When we have jobs we go to, we develop a work family that supports us in ways that go beyond work.  Fortunately, the tools for maintaining virtual contact with friends/family/colleagues are pretty great now.  They don't take the place of seeing someone in person but they're way better than having only written correspondence and telephone.

    As COVID-19 precautions roll out, the option for being with others at local section meetings has disappeared.  The AIChE's Virtual Local Section has been holding monthly meetings online for nearly a decade and during the COVID-19 outbreak we will help other local sections hold their meetings online if they want.  Meanwhile, if you're feeling a need for connection, this month's meetings of the Virtual Local Section are next week.  This month's meeting presentation is about making your focus your magic as you start or develop a consulting business, and it's free for anyone to attend.

    Best to everyone!  Be well.


    Kirsten Rosselot
    Process Profiles
    Calabasas, CA United States

  • 3.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-20-2020 16:17
    I've scheduled a number of video calls with my work colleagues, friends and family so we can still see and interact with each other as if we were in person.  It's not quite the same as face to face, but certainly helps me feel more connected and less isolated.  Looking forward to hearing what others are doing!

    Monica Mellinger
    Senior Membership Associate & Engage Community Lead

  • 4.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-21-2020 00:52
    Edited by Steve Cutchen 03-21-2020 00:58
    I worked remotely as a CSB Investigator for 8 years. I'm in Houston, my organization was in Denver.  What I found was:
    • I needed to establish a routine. I went to work. I went to lunch, I went back to work. I went home. I set up an office that was an office... not anything else. 
    • I needed all of my files and support information to be electronic. It was not feasible to duplicate paper files.
    • I spent my own money on hardware. External monitors, external backups, an iPad Pro, a good sound system, a damn good office chair.
    • I worked hard to figure out what software worked for me. Some, like MS Office, were obvious. Some were communications tools or tools for creating electronic versions of paper. PDF editing software. Video editing software. Photoshop. Scanning to PDF, including books.
    • Video conferencing into a meeting was difficult. I'm a face on the wall, not at the table. The table was not used to that. It was hard to participate. It was on me to make it work.
    • Making and receiving comments was difficult. It's easy to poke your head into an office and say something quickly. And misunderstanding are immediately fixed. Written comments are as misunderstood as written drafts.
    • It was great to be able to devote long periods of time to a task, without interruption. Maker's versus Manager's time. 
    • Fortunately I'm a Thinking Introvert, so once I was buried in a task, it was great. I didn't miss people.

    Steve Cutchen
    Investigator, retired
    US Chemical Safety Board
    Houston TX

  • 5.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-24-2020 11:33

    I've been working at home in my own practice for 20+ years.?? What I missed most was the water cooler because it was a social network site where one could get the scoop on what was going on in the company and how it affected my work.

    When the kids were small, they had to have a clear understanding that when I was at work, I may have been in the dining room (first office) or the bedroom (later office), but I was at work.?? It was occasionally tough on them because when trouble arose, I was the parent in residence, and had to put up with the occasional noise.?? In those days it was strange, but now with the COVID19 challenge working from home is more acceptable and the occasional background noise and family interruptions are tolerated much better.

    Now some tips:

    If you have to have a word processor (and who doesn't) and the company doesn't provide one for you, Microsoft Office has several deals for about $100 annual subscription, or if you want free you can get Open Office which is part of the Mozilla project, and it's compatible with Microsoft Office for about 95% of the content, including spreadsheets, word processing, and slide creation software.

    Adobe reader is free for download.?? It will enable you to read but not alter pdf documents. For that you must pay and there are several other processors including OPEN PDF which is inexpensive.?? For video?? conferencing Zoom is excellent, but then for smaller conferences, try Skype (pay for use), or some of the other platforms . Zoom will work on Mac and PC.??

    Real Player is good for most video applications, and so is VLC media player. Both are free and VLC doesn't come with as many advertisements.

    For scanners, you are on your own.?? They aren't that expensive $150 or so.

    Video cameras can be had for $100 or more, depending on your choice.?? I use an external because I don't like the one on my laptop, and I'm not always on my laptop.

    Get yourself a good external ergonomic keyboard ($110-$125) because it's more comfortable

    You will need a good chair, and if you have wheels on the chair you will need a floor pad because the wheels will cut into the carpet and shred it over time. If you are only going to be home for a week or so, don't worry about it.

    An elevator desk is a nice touch but expensive, but there are laptop and keyboard holders which can elevate to your needs.?? They are advertised on TV regularly.

    One final thing about keyboards-- I find that it is best to have the keyboard flat on a larger surface because your arms are supported and you won't get carpal tunnel from having your wrists bent upward at a funny angle from the elevated keyboard.

    Good luck

    When Experience Counts, Use Global Environmental Operations, Inc.
    David L. Russell, PE, ASP
    Enjoy my new Book: 2nd Edition, Practical Wastewater Treatment, published by John Wiley and available in April 2019 Global Environmental Operations, Inc.
    4797 Dean Lane SW. Lilburn, Ga, 30047-4746
    Ph: 770-923-4408 www.globalenvironmental.biz cel: 404-667-2427 ms

  • 6.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-25-2020 09:29
    For scanners, if it is only a few pages, there are several apps that allow you to convert a photo taken with a smart phone to a pdf, and many of them include OCR. Two apps that are free and available for both Android and Apple devices are AdobeScan and CamScanner.

    Valerie Young, Department Chair
    Ohio University
    Athens, OH United States

  • 7.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-26-2020 04:22
    Thanks, Valerie!  This is a great tip, and I have shared this with my colleagues.  Many of us are working from home and have printers, but not all of the printers have scanning capabilities.  This app is a great option for our documents that still require wet ink signatures.  Scanning to PDF via phone is better than sending phone camera pictures of signed docs.  Thank you for sharing!

    Andrew Riederer
    Quality Operations Manager
    Boehringer Ingelheim
    Columbus OH // Koropi (Athens), Greece

  • 8.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-26-2020 06:39
    This is a very good overview, thank you
    I like the maker versus manager discussion
    one needs to have time to think to have depth in looking at issues

    Christopher Semonelli
    Vice President Sales & Marketing
    Middletown RI

  • 9.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-26-2020 10:42
    Thanks for the kind words on the Maker versus Manager article, Christopher. It was really eye-opening for me when I saw those concepts and realized how even small interruptions could be so destructive. I started doing a lot better job of working with my colleagues to put meetings at the beginning or end of a day rather than, say, at 10a or 2p.

    On the issue of using a phone for scanning (Valerie and Andrew)...  thats the only way I do it now!  I use a program called Docr. What I really like about it is that it can account for warpage of the image when scanning a bound document such as a book. 

    Steve Cutchen
    Investigator, retired
    US Chemical Safety Board
    Houston TX

  • 10.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-21-2020 17:21
    I have always been adept at working from home and like to do so.  When I have large documents to read, especially Federal Register with its tiny three-column print, the natural light that floods my house makes the reading easier.  I have good wifi, cell phone, and all the stuff that I need.  But, PLEASE, let's not insist that conference calls be video calls.  It's none of your business what my house looks like, whether I dressed in a sloppy old T while at home, or whether I am eating lunch during the call.

    Marise Textor PE
    Manager Regulatory Affairs
    Marathon Petroleum Company
    El Paso TX

  • 11.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-23-2020 08:54
    Edited by Teni Butler 03-23-2020 08:57
    Working from home does present a unique set of challenges that, if you aren't a traditional work-from-homer, can be quite distracting. Especially with the added stress and anxiety of the news about the COVID-19 pandemic that is rocking the whole globe. Focusing attention is a challenge that isn't new to the home work space, but in the midst of big change and learning to cope, it can absolutely become more difficult. :)

    There is extensive scientific research that explores the very real benefits of cognitive training to bring focused attention to an object that can help build resilience in the brain and encourage us away from letting the amygdala (most primitive human brain structure - fight, flight, freeze response) lead in our physical and emotional responses to stress and toward developing stronger neural connections that begin to allow individuals to choose their responses to identified stressors from a more focused and present frame of mind.

    I benefit greatly from a few minutes of mindfulness practice a few times a day.  It helps me discipline my mind and focus where focus needs to be instead of trying to respond to the hundreds of stimuli that are constantly bombarding my brain space (i.e. e-mail, co-worker IMs, news notifications, requests from family, pets wanting attention, etc... everyone has their list and you all understand I am sure!)

    Here's a focused attention mindfulness practice from Google's Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute to try out if you are interested in exploring these benefits: https://siyli.org/resources/a-meditation-to-focus-attention#

    Other resources to learn more about how you (and your companies!) can benefit from including mindfulness based stress reduction practices in their daily routines can be found at any of the following links:

    I hope all are well and healthy and finding ways to mitigate and manage the health impacts of this pandemic inside and outside of the COVID-19 concerns.

    Teni Butler
    Coatings and Inks Tech Service Rep
    Eastman Chemical Company
    Kingsport TN

  • 12.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-26-2020 04:29
    Edited by Andrew Riederer 03-26-2020 04:30
    I'm going to share a post from social media, written by my brother-in-law who has worked remotely for 15 years for a variety of companies (mostly as a programmer, which is a helpful frame a reference for a few of his points).  He wrote this to provide tips & encouragement to many people who are finding themselves working from home now, perhaps for the first extended period in their careers, etc.


    1. You have to keep a routine. Yes, you might have more flexibility now that you are working from home, but it's critical to keep regular time/hours that are work and others that are not. The routine will help you grind through the days where you "just can't even." Take a shower every morning. Change into proper clothes. Don't work in your jammies. Also stop working at a set time and do not answer texts or messages after that-the temptation will be strong, but you need to hold to regular hours.

    2. Carve out some space-no matter how small-that is "work only space." Going there and sitting there is work. Leaving that area and not sitting there is not work. Even better if it is a room with a door. If you have a spare bedroom, you won't have any visitors any time soon-convert it into an office. It's worth sacrificing space to being just work to help partition it off from the rest of your life/time.

    Note, #1 and #2 combined provide what I call the "context switch." You need some kind of visual, spatial, and mental cues that tell you "I'm working now" and "I'm not working any more." Otherwise, it's hard to focus on work when you need to work and it's hard to stop working when you need to spend time with your family.

    3. Ergonomics matter. If you are going to be typing at a computer all day, be aware of how you are sitting. Make sure to take breaks, stand, go for walks. Be aware that the kitchen table is not the same height as your desk, and it will not be comfortable. Office Depot and their like will deliver. 

    4. Take breaks and get some exercise. I know what I need, and at about 2-4p, I need a break, I need to get walking. The best part is that for my job at least, I do a lot of great thinking on the hike, and by the time I'm on the way back I have solved a few problems. I'd really recommend 30-45 minutes minimum of walking at a solid pace or something like it. Studies show people who WFH take less breaks and actually work more, so your employer can spare you 45 minutes.

    5. Get a good headset. Consider getting a webcam if you have a crappy one in your laptop. Odds are you are going to be on a lot of conference calls, and having stuff that works well and is comfortable helps a ton. There's some great USB and Bluetooth headsets for laptops these days.

    6. Do not work where you have a television, game console, etc. Don't leave Facebook or Twitter open. Almost none of us have enough will power to muddle through difficult or boring tasks with that kind temptation nearby. Work time is work time (#1!). Don't set yourself up to fail!

    7. Work out a schedule with your family. Figure out how this is going to work, when you are on, when you are not. You might want to work from 7-10a and then switch off with your spouse, then pick up some more hours in the afternoon and evening. Whatever works for you and your family, do it-and communicate with your family and your manager about what you are going to do and why.

    Ok, now for tips about you and your co-workers. If you are a manager, these are especially important for you to help your team with.

    8. Establish "office hours," and make sure that everyone is present for at least 6 of them. The numbers are arbitrary, but the important part is that everyone must "be around" and "available" at the same time. You are going to have night owls that want to work at midnight and sleep till 11a-don't do it. It makes everything harder if people can't get a hold of each other.

    9. Set up a "social channel" for your team. There's Skype, Slack, and a bunch of others. Set up a channel for work, and set up a social channel for goofing, memes, and jokes. It's ok if you goof around in all your channels, but you want one that is a safe place to blow off steam. Plus posting gify memes at each other is fun.

    10. Establish the ground rules for meetings, communication, etc. For example, maybe meetings that start at the hour have a 5 minute pad at the beginning for everyone to chat and catch up or get coffee. Maybe you want everyone to put work items in a specific channel. Whatever you are going to do, make sure that everyone knows what you are doing and how. There's too much chance for misunderstanding otherwise.

    11. Be flexible-both with yourself and with your co-workers. Along with #8, you need to understand that for a lot of people, this is new. For a lot of people they go to the office *on purpose* because they can't get things done at home. Everyone is going to be figuring this out on their own. Holding to the routine (#1) and being clear about expectations (#8) will help, but giving everyone a heaping helping of grace will be required as we all figure this out.

    And the most important for last...

    12. Do NOT interpret that email/text/message in the worst way. Email, texts, messages, etc. are *horrible* communication mediums. You *will* misunderstand people. You *will* take it the wrong way. You will even find yourself escalating and getting angry in ways you would never do in person. Any time you think someone is mad at you, *call* them. Talking on the phone isn't as good as in-person, but it's 100x better than sending emails at each other.

    Oh yeah, I forgot one more important one:
    * Always be aware of what is on your computer desktop when screen sharing or what is behind you on camera when video conferencing.  Always.  Just sayin' ;-)


    Andrew Riederer
    Quality Operations Manager
    Boehringer Ingelheim
    Columbus, OH // Koropi (Athens), Greece

  • 13.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-27-2020 10:22
    I get the need and benefit of the context switch. I'm retired but doing some part time work, and I struggled at first with being interrupted by my retired husband. Now, I make sure to say that "I'm going to work" before heading into spare room, and interruption rate has dropped significantly.

    Be safe, everyone!

    Jean Cronin
    Cabot Corp.
    Midland MI

  • 14.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-28-2020 09:41
    (I posted the following in the Engage Process Engineering Discussion Community.)

    The good news is that the "Chemical Sector" is one of the 16 exempt is one of the critical infrastructures during the Covic-19 emergency.  A link to the CISA (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency) web site that identifies critical infrastructures is at:


    However, that does not mean that we do not need to try to work online.  I believe any ideas about working online will be of great value to all of us.

    T. David Griffith, Ph.D.
    Blessing (Bay City), TX

  • 15.  RE: Working Remotely - Share how you're coping...

    Posted 03-31-2020 17:22
    We just today published a blog post on ChEnected called "Smooth the Transition to the Home Office."

    One of my favorite sections is something that I have to remind myself of all the time​. I often assume everyone knows what I know or is experiencing my reality. I know intellectually this is not case so it's good to be reminded:

    See everything through colleagues' eyes

    Whether it's because humans seek or assume consensus, or whether we simply can't get out of our own heads sometimes, most of us too often mistakenly assume others share our knowledge or opinion. What's more, it's even easier to make these assumptions without face-to-face contact when all the signals of facial expressions and body language might normally alert us to our error. 

    Very Best,

    John Vasko
    Director, Communications & Online Content
    New York NY