Tuesday, 25 May 2021 16:01

Welcome Back (to life, back to reality)

City of Houston employees make their way back to the office from the Tunnels. Mayor Sylvester Turner has directed a phased in return to work for those who spent the past year working from home by June 1. City of Houston employees make their way back to the office from the Tunnels. Mayor Sylvester Turner has directed a phased in return to work for those who spent the past year working from home by June 1.


So … many of you are getting ready to return to the office. (Cue the theme song from “Welcome Back Kotter”: Welcome back/Your dreams were your ticket out/Welcome back/to that same old place that you laughed about …)

Just like the song, some of the names have changed since you were in the office on a daily basis. You may find a new employee in the seat once occupied by an old your cube farm mate. Some have moved on to different departments, and some have simply moved on.

And although the specter that is COVID-19 still exists, the number of residents who have received the vaccine has resulted in Mayor Sylvester Turner directing a phased return to work by June 1 for those employees who spent the past year or more working remotely from home.

So now, it’s goodbye to working from your home office in your pajamas and bunny slippers and hello again to the grind. (Cue R&B group Soul II Soul hit song “Back to Life”: Back to life/back to reality.)

Earlier this year, City Savvy asked employees, if you could go back to 2019, what would you tell yourself about the year 2020? The question generated a lot of responses, so we decided to try it again.

We asked two questions this time: What did you enjoy most about working remotely? And what will you miss most about working remotely?

You came through again. We were inundated with responses and opinions.

Not surprisingly, avoiding the dreaded morning and evening traffic rush ranked among the top answers for what employees will miss most about working from home.

“NO RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC,” exclaimed one employee, who preferred to remain anonymous. “Houston can be a dangerous city to drive in due to traffic, wrecks and road rage. No rush hour traffic actually cleared my mind and stress levels.”

“Eliminating three hours of commute, not spending so much money, time focusing with no distraction,” Judith Miller, a graduate engineer, listed as her reasons for enjoying working from home. “I like being able start working in a more relaxed, clean environment, and not losing three hours of my life in a commute.”

For many, the lack of a commute and the added stress it brings resulted in feeling more relaxed and focused. Jamila Johnson, a managing engineer with Houston Public Works, said it helped with her ability to really focus on work without distractions and also provided more efficient meetings through Zoom.

“I was able to focus more on work with less distractions and no traffic or frustrating commute, creating a peaceful start to the day,” she said. “I enjoyed not having the commute and the ability to really focus on work without the workplace distractions.”

Flexibility was another big incentive for many remote workers, as many said they were able to work more efficiently and effective during the week and some weekends.

“Sometimes I worked on Saturday and Sundays,” said Chan, a senior accountant who preferred to go by his first name only.

For Ondrea Taylor, a senior ACA section chief with the Legal Department, convenience, flexibility, saving money and stress from her commute equated to being more productive.

“Also, solitude and minimal distractions,” she added.

 Elizabeth Lozoya, a senior real estate analyst said she was able to save money working remotely by not going out all the time.

“I was able to save by NOT going out to eat in the downtown tunnels, plus gas, toll road charges, dry cleaning, etc.,” she wrote.

Some employees also cited things they will miss about working remotely — like being able to set the alarm clock slightly later then when they have to come in to the office. At least that will be the case for Racheal Davenport, an administrative assistant with the Houston Fire Department.

“I wake up now at 5 a.m. versus 4 a.m. to get ready for work at 6 a.m.,” she said.

Beverly Riggins, a deputy city controller, said she will miss the ability to run an errand close to home on her lunch break when she returns to the office, while Elizabeth Pecina, an administrative assistant with PWE, said she will miss spending more time with her kids.

“I was able to do that since I didn’t have to deal with traffic,” she wrote.

But there are also some employees who are ready for a return to the workplace.

Senior City Attorney II Lan Nguyen looks forward to interacting in person again with colleagues. “Just being able to walk into each other’s offices to ask or share questions or concerns,” Nguyen said.

For others, remote work just wasn’t their cup of tea.

“I did not enjoy it at all,” said Debbie McCoy, an administrative assistant.

So, what did she enjoy most about the experience? “Nothing,” McCoy said.

So, there you have it: Working remotely, much like COVID-19, will be an experience that not many will soon likely forget.

What did you enjoy most about remote work? (553 responses)
    • Not commuting, driving, traveling to office: 38%
    • Less interruptions, distractions, improved focus: 19%
    • Work-life balance: 11%
    • Reduced stress: 8%
    • Safety: 7%
    • Flexibility, independence: 6%
    • Comfort, convenience: 4%
    • Saved time, increased productivity, more time to sleep or spend with family: 4%
    • Quiet and peace: 3%
    • Saved money: 3%
    • Dogs: 2%


What will you miss about working remotely? (506 responses)
    • Not commuting, driving, traveling to office: 39%
    • Comfort, convenience: 14%
    • Work-life balance: 9%
    • Safety: 7%
    • Quiet and Peace: 7%
    • Saved time, increased productivity, more time to sleep or spend with family: 6%
    • Less interruptions, distractions, improved focus: 5%
    • Flexibility, independence: 5%
    • Reduced stress: 3%




Because there were so many responses to this questionnaire, it was impossible to list them all, we’ve decided to select a few answers and highlight them for the article:

“I enjoyed not rushing in the morning traffic and was able to do more work with no interruptions and stress.” 
- Maria Rodriguez, Administrative Specialist, HFD
“Being able to focus more, and no long commutes to downtown.”
- Patricia Campbell, Managing Engineer, HPW
“The convenience and working in a comfortable environment.”
– LaTonya Montena, 311 Telecommunicator, ARA
“I don’t have to drive; I live an hour away, so I save my time that I can use with my family.”
- Salma Khuwaja, HIV Division Manager
“Wearing sweats.”
– Rhonda Sauter, Division Manager, DON
- Merle Neville, Division Manager of Electrical Inspections
“Eating breakfast and dinner with my family.”
-  Melody Barr, Deputy Assistant Director, HCD 
“The ability to work out or unwind during lunch and have more time with the kids and dog.”
– Debbie Hoffpauir, IT Lead-Business Analysts, HITS
“No distractions.”
– Roger Hebert, Senior Project Manager, IDO Building
“Sleeping 90 minutes later. Other than that, nothing, I prefer the office environment.”
– Rick Nordquist, Assistant Chief, HPW
“I miss my coworkers.”
– Val Shur, Programmer, Analyst IV, HPW
“Accomplishing more work daily.”
– Lynette Howe, Customer Service Section Chief, PWE

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