COVID-19 swept through our country like a huge storm, and TSA quickly responded.
While TSA’s mission to protect the nation’s transportation systems continues, agency leadership made a commitment to protect as many employees as possible by putting a broad-based telework policy into place.
It’s created quite a different work scene. Thousands of employees who normally go into the office are working full-time from home during the pandemic, and this includes much of TSA’s non-screening field workforce.
Pennsylvania Human Resources Program Assistant Natasha Lopez said she’s thankful every day that she has a job and has the opportunity to telework in the current environment.
“This has been a valuable experience and allowed me to learn more about myself,” Lopez said. “I quickly realized I need to keep my normal morning work routine. I get ready every morning as if I am going into the office.”
To her surprise, she said teleworking isn’t really much different than being in the office. “The work and dynamics are the same,” said Lopez. “We just have to adjust how we complete the mission. You just can’t walk down the hall to visit someone.”
Human Resources Assistant Paula Steele, also from Pennsylvania, said she didn’t have the option to telework until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, she said working from home is quieter and much more relaxed than in the office, and everything is running smoothly.
“Without the noise and disruptions in the office setting, I can focus completely on my tasks and have less of a chance to make mistakes,” said Steele. “My biggest challenge is remembering to stop and take breaks. My workflow is constant, and without the distractions, I lose track of time.”
Steele, though, feels it’s business as usual for her team. “We communicate and work together well,” she said. “Our workload is still being completed as if we were in the office, both timely and professionally.”
Like Lopez and Steele, New Mexico TSA Finance Specialist Rose Ann Brown quickly adjusted to teleworking, although she’s only able to telework half of the time.
“It’s pretty much business as usual,” Brown said. “We’re not able to meet face-to-face, but I’m very accessible via telephone and email, and I’m sure to get back to each person as soon as possible. I really haven’t had any challenges.”
For Detroit Supervisory Transportation Security Inspector Marianne Devine, adjusting to full-time telework has been a challenge. “I am so used to having all of my tools at my fingertips at the office – working with multiple monitors, my favorite pen, speed dial desk phone, and the speed of the landline,” Devine said. “I miss having the ability to walk next door and bounce an idea off of one of my fellow supervisors or walking down the hall to get my assistant federal security director’s thoughts on a project I have been working on. I miss the face-to-face conversations with my employees. Skype meetings have become the norm. The camaraderie is missing somehow.”
Temporary full-time teleworkers are realizing the impact technology has on how TSA does business.
“I can honestly say my Skype skills have improved significantly,” said Devine. “I’m taking advantage of [TSA’s internal website] and using it more and more as a tool to communicate. I have realized I am still old school with having that paper product in my hand, and I need to get into the 21st Century. Change is hard, but sometime we need to let it in so we can grow.”
Despite the dramatic decrease in travel, Devine reminds all of us that TSA’s mission remains the same. “I would like to tell all of my TSA family to hang in there. Be patient with each other and understand that everyone’s situation is different. We have the might of the American bald eagle, the absolute love of life and the unwavering resolve of a great nation.”