Remote work has become a new norm for many of us in the era of COVID-19. For our Customer Information (CI) team, this meant leaving a small but bustling hive at the North Surrey Office, where real-time alerts are sent out, updates are received, and hundreds of customer questions are answered.
Working from home (WFH) was quite a readjustment for the team in numerous ways. For Michael Robertson and Cam Muirhead, Customer Information Work Leaders, one thing has remained constant – a good daily face-to-face dose of work banter and chuckles with a desk buddy, which, we’re sure, many of us missed so much. The thing is Mike and Cam are roommates!
We of course couldn’t miss the chance of talking to this awesome CI duo about their ‘co-working at home’ experience and how CI worked during these most uncertain times.
Mike and Cam met while working at Coast Mountain Bus company (CMBC – the bus company that’s part of the TransLink enterprise) in 2013. They’ve always gotten along in-and-outside of the workplace, so when in the end of 2019, Cam was looking for a new place to stay and Mike was in need of a roommate, they decided to team-up for a mutually beneficial living arrangement.
How was your experience working from home as roommates during COVID-19?
Cam: COVID-19 was first announced as a global pandemic on March 11th. Initially, like everyone else, we couldn’t anticipate what this would entail. Over the next couple of weeks, management made efforts to mobilize our team to a work-from-home environment.
Mike: When everyone started to work from home, I was the first one to be working at home. We had close to the same shift, so I could joke to Cam about how bad my commute was compared to his. Eventually he worked from home and we each had a side of the dining room table. It was very easy for us to communicate the duties and issues that came up immediately and nice to still have the regular work banter that some of our coworkers I’m sure are missing.
Cam: I do find it fortunate that Mike and I work in the same department and can relate on our tasks at hand. We’ve have been able maintain that level of face-to-face communication that most people don’t have the benefit of. We’re pretty lucky in that respect! Towards the end of May, I had moved to an afternoon shift. Since then, our living room has effectively transformed into an all-day/all-night information station. Our phones start up at 7:00 a.m. and they don’t stop until 11:30 p.m. most days.
How has COVID-19 changed the way your team works?
Cam & Mike: The biggest change we’ve faced with COVID-19 and WFH is how we communicate internally. Our main priority has always been communicating to the public with the latest news and ad-hoc events that occur on-a-daily-basis through various communication platforms. Since we’ve moved to a more isolated environment, we’ve increased our methods of internal communication digitally; through use of Skype chats, phone calls, e-mails, etc. While nothing beats the quickness of communicating face-to-face, we’ve been able to adjust accordingly without having to sacrifice much.
What are the most common questions that you receive from our customers?
Cam & Mike: As ridership declined and service levels were reduced, it was no-doubt challenging for customers who still needed to travel essentially during a volatile time. Our staff were there to assist in navigating the changes that would sometimes happen on a daily or weekly basis.
Some of the biggest concerns and questions we had were “What is TransLink doing to enforce physical distancing?” As ridership increases, customers continue to ask how we are going to adjust while maintaining safety measures and continuing to flatten the curve.
What were the main challenges? What do you consider to be the positive highlights?
Mike: I would say the main challenge is that we are not together with the rest of the team. We aren’t able to immediately ask others any questions for clarity and have those social interactions we normally have in the office. We’ve recently had a shift change as well, so Cam and myself now work opposite schedules, so we don’t have as much banter and laughs. Some positive changes is that we now know we can work from home if the situation arises with a lot of new programs and policies to make working from home easier.
Cam: Yes, we quickly had to digitize a lot of our documents and procedures so that they are accessible to our crew in a split workplace. In the long run, some of these digital processes have improved workflow and were accelerated by the adaptation of our new environments. We’ve quickly developed a “new normal” in the way we work. I don’t foresee us going back to the way things were before. On a lighter note, the change in commute time has definitely been a highlight!
What is your advice for maintaining a good work-life balance while staying at home?
Mike: For myself, I would say to try and keep your same routine as if you were still working in the office. Try to have your workstation in a location that is not in the way and still get dressed and prepped as if you were heading into the office. Eat only on your breaks, take a mental break every once in a while and try to find a new hobby within your own house. I feel these help keep the mental separation of work and home in place.
Cam: Now that Mike and I work opposite schedules, we do our best to give each other space throughout the day to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sometimes that may mean spending more time in my room, or more time outside. I always ask Mike how the morning has been (work-wise), but we do make the effort to keep up with our personal lives despite all else!
If you have any customer-related questions, you can get in touch with our Customer Information team here.