Looking back at a year of working remotely

It’s been more than a year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Uncertainty is one of the first words that comes to mind when reflecting on how the coronavirus crisis affected every aspect of our lives. 

Concern about the health and wellbeing of our families, friends and communities always came first for DocuWare and our partners. As digital document management and process automation experts, we were well positioned to help our Partners and their customers respond to changes that were coming faster than they could have ever anticipated. Our goal was to support them both in navigating the instant shift to managing a remote workforce and to help them contain costs so they could keep their businesses operating at full capacity.

Easy to use document management tools provided our customers with a kind of stress relief — the kind that allowed them to keep their doors open for business and retain their employees.

A game changer for the new normal

Rebel Refrigeration, AC & Plumbing has been installing water heaters, air conditioning systems and providing other home services to the residents of the Las Vegas and surrounding suburbs for nearly 25 years. When the lockdown order was issued, the company’s office had to close. Employees were working from home, but they couldn’t access the paper documents in the office, and invoice processing fell behind. “I wanted my people to be able to seamlessly and smoothly work from home, especially if it ended up being a long-term situation,” Owner Joe Johnson says. He knew going digital was vital to staying afloat.

Johnson chose DocuWare’s cloud-based preconfigured solution for invoice processing. Getting started was quick and easy and the solution was up and running within 24 hours. “I wanted to have a cloud-type of system where we could really go paperless,” Johnson says, adding that the setup was easy. “It was all laid out for us,” he explains.

Bringing an existing system to the cloud

Companies like Rebel Refrigeration implemented our cloud-based system in response to an urgent need. In contrast, Federation of Organizations, which is a multi-service, community-based social wellness agency based in Babylon, New York, had been using DocuWare on-premises for almost 10 years when IT Director Michael Serrano planned their migration to the cloud prior to the pandemic.

DocuWare Cloud went live in early April 2020 just as the business implications of the pandemic were becoming clear. Federation staff were adapting to working from home and because they were already familiar with DocuWare, the transition was seamless. “Since the staff had a core understanding of the processes, transition time was minimal,” Serrano says. “Everyone acclimated quickly, and the tools DocuWare provides helped ease the stress.”

Automation has an unexpected benefit 

While Daviess County Public Schools in Owensboro Kentucky, originally implemented DocuWare to digitize student records and use eforms to streamline communication with parents. When classes went online because of stay at home orders, DocuWare facilitated device assignments that kept track of the laptops and other equipment teachers brought home. Each teacher filled out an eform on an iPad, and it was processed electronically. This allowed them to sign out equipment with minimal interaction with other staff members and helped the IT team as well.

Working from home when your business is improving the way people work

We asked DocuWare team members about how they feel about the switch to full-time work from home. Our employees reported missing informal conversations, working lunches and exchanging ideas on the fly. Even commuting took on a nostalgic glow because it provided a tangible separation between work and home. Walking from your desk in the bedroom to your kitchen doesn’t provide any time to decompress.

On a positive note, we’ve also gotten to know our coworkers in new ways. Sometimes children and pets participate on Zoom calls, whether it’s intentional or not. Virtual lunches, retirement parties and online conferences offer a chance to connect. It turns out that we’d rather meet in a virtual breakout room than not see each other at all. We also find ways to add much needed humor to our exchanges as shown in our use of custom Zoom backgrounds that cheer us up and allow us to express our personalities.

Cristina Meyer, Graphic Designer

At the very beginning, I was happy to decelerate my routine. My whole life was 100% timed and planned: get up at 6, drive my son to kindergarten at 8:00, be in the office by 8:30, pick up my son at 2:30. Spend time with him, then start cooking dinner at 6:30 and get the little one ready for bed at 8:00. Working at home gave me the opportunity to gain a significant amount of extra time. Sometimes I could get up only 30 minutes before starting to work. I also enjoyed spending family time that had been reserved for the weekends before, like having breakfast or lunch together. 

After a couple of weeks, it started getting difficult because my husband and I were both working at home and each of us was taking time out to entertain our son. I sometimes worked at night or started at 5 or 6 in the morning, so I had more time for him during the day. Now my son is going to kindergarten again because the German government offers “emergency care” if both parents work.

Although I enjoyed working on my balcony during the summer, I missed going into the office, listening to the radio on my commute and having coffee and a chat with my colleagues. Now, I always get dressed in the morning as if were going into the office, wear makeup and even put on street shoes because that it gets me into the right frame of mind to start work.

Steve Hatch, Customer Success Specialist 

One positive way working from home has helped is with my sleeping pattern. I can sleep in a little longer and not have to worry about getting ready to go in. With this extra hour, and without the routine of getting ready I can wake up, make coffee, and relax before logging in for the day. I’ve found this leads to me being more productive in the morning.

At the office I walked during my lunch hour, and I continue that habit most of the time. Another thing I find useful about working from home is on breaks I will get little chores done around my apartment which gives me more time when I’m not logged on.

The only negative I find is that it can be harder to build strong personal connections with others who are not on my team or with new hires. For instance, in the office, I can always run in to someone in the kitchen or hallway and have brief conversations. 

Joe Frank, Manager IT Operations

When we started working from home, I struggled to find a dedicated space in my small apartment to set up my office computer. I ended up investing a small amount in a monitor riser to put my laptop under. I also purchased an inexpensive KVM (keyboard / video / mouse) switch. This allows my work laptop and my personal desktop PC to share a single monitor and peripherals without having to unplug anything. I just press a button to toggle between computers. Definitely a big time and space saver.

Vanessa Quiroga, Manager Recruitment & Talent Development

One of the things that has really helped me has been to make sure I take a lunch break in a separate space from my office.  I have a tendency to sit at my desk all day and in the beginning, it made me feel a bit burnt out. 

I also stopped checking my emails late into the evening. It can be hard to feel separated from ‘work’ when you’re working from home – setting clear boundaries for myself helped a great deal.

Michael Gale, Senior Sales Director 

When the pandemic hit, I knew right away that I needed a more functional space at home to get work done. I purchased a desk that was comfortable to sit or stand at for long periods of time.  It definitely was an investment, but one that hopefully pays off because it’s made working from home much more efficient.