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Structural Engineer Recounts Transition to Work From Home During COVID-19 Crisis

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are now working from home. Danielle Schroeder, an associate bridge engineer at Pennoni's headquarters, shares her experience of working from home during this time.
Structural Engineer Recounts Transition To Work From Home During Covid-19 Crisis

This blog post is written by Danielle Schroeder, EIT. She is an associate bridge engineer at Pennoni’s headquarters in Philadelphia. For SWE, she currently serves as a first-term Senator and the Professional Counselor for the Drexel SWE Section.

Amid COVID-19, these past two weeks have been a transition.Structural Engineer Recounts Transition To Work From Home During Covid-19 Crisis

I work in Pennoni’s Philadelphia Transportation Group, and we’ve made the transition to work from home for the time being.  Pennoni has taken measures to address safety, community concerns, and continue to meet our clients’ needs while making decisions with the health of our employees at the forefront.

On Monday, March 16th, most of our group was still in the office. Shortly after Pennsylvania’s Governor, Tom Wolf held his press conference, a mandatory staff meeting was scheduled for that afternoon where our group discussed the move to work remotely starting the following morning. That afternoon, I brought home what I needed from the office for at least the next two weeks. For codes or references that we only had hard copies of, such as RSMeans, we designated one person from our group to bring it home who will be serving as our liaison for that code/reference for the time being. That night, I stayed up researching articles about remote work to better prepare for my first day.

Many of the articles I read stressed the importance of having a dedicated workspace, so I cleared my desk in the corner of my apartment of all personal items so that it could serve as my workspace during this time.

I have been working remotely from my apartment since March 17th and so far, it has been a pretty smooth transition. To keep connected throughout the workday and troubleshoot various problems, we have been using Microsoft Teams. Our bridge group has implemented 30-minute check-ins every other day with the entire group to keep us on track and we each have scheduled blocks of time on our calendars for each project we are working on so everyone on our team can see what we are scheduled to work on.

One of the main positives of working from home is I have a shorter distance to fill up my water bottle, so I’ve been drinking more water than usual. I also love the ability to sing along to my music (which wouldn’t fly in the office!) and the extra hour and half of my day that I don’t have to spend commuting to and from the office I have been using to tackle various apartment cleaning tasks. Though it hasn’t completely been a perfect setup, I have been able to keep up with work to meet deadlines. About mid-way through the first week, I started to miss my L-shaped office desk where I was able to spread out my paperwork. From what I currently have at my apartment, I improvised a side table from some plastic storage containers that I use to hold off-season clothes.

Structural Engineer Recounts Transition To Work From Home During Covid-19 CrisisStructural Engineer Recounts Transition To Work From Home During Covid-19 Crisis

Of course, working from home comes with its own set of challenges. I have learned the importance of taking breaks, especially to go outside and get some fresh air. I typically bought my lunch most days at work, so with this transition I have been instead taking a short walk either at lunchtime or after work hours. I was also missing the “water cooler” conversations that would naturally happen throughout the week in the office. To mend this, the “Fun Committee” for our group decided to have some dedicated posts throughout the week, including one day asking everyone to post a photo (or recipe) to something they were eating throughout that day.

While I have the luxury to be able to work from home, there are some who cannot, including many within the engineering profession such as those manufacturing lifesaving medicines. I wanted to close out this post by thanking those who are still traveling to work every day during this international crisis. Having a partner in the healthcare profession during these times, I would also like to remind everyone in these unprecedented times to be alert and not anxious and follow the associated guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.

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