I am writing to you today from home, my second week of full-time telework. While right now working from home is vital to continuing the DHS mission, I can tell you the reality is not quite as I imagined. Figuring out how to use all of the available technology, remembering to take myself off mute, and keeping my mind off all the little distractions, like ‘oh no, I forgot to put my trash out again,’ can make working from home more than an adventure!
However, this is nothing compared to all of you who are reporting to work in-person and are likely finding the world a very different place than just a few weeks ago. Adapting to these new situations can push us out of our routines and comfort zones, and now more than ever, it is critical we stay healthy for ourselves, our loved ones, and the Nation we serve.
While the world around us may be different—you may be working different shifts, seeing fewer colleagues, dealing with a very different place and pace on duty, it can be hard to settle into a new way of life. Work, sleep, exercise, and eating patterns often change during these times and lead to additional challenges. Remember that good sleep, eating, and exercise patterns are how we build our natural immunity system. We don’t just feel better as a result, we are healthier and more able to cope with change. Regular sleep and exercise habits also help maintain a routine, by building structure into a day that can easily see meals, work, and personal time run into each other.
As important is your mental health. Be sure to take mental breaks for a few minutes each hour and find time to stretch. Also, taking distinct breaks to clear your mind can help—go outside for a walk and breath in the fresh air to clear your thoughts, sit down with your colleagues or loved ones at home and take the time to listen to each other while having your meals, email or call a friend, colleague, or loved one you haven’t spoken to in a while, or even give yourself 10 minutes to meditate and think about all the things you are grateful for—science has proven one of the best ways to stay positive is to establish a daily practice of being grateful. I completely understand that while you have a lot on your mind these days, and many more people and issues are vying for your time and attention, it is certainly easy to get pulled in different directions all day long. Using a clear routine and segmenting your time (meals, exercise, meditation, family time) can help provide everyone (including you) with some semblance of balance and order. This can be especially critical if you are breaking up your work time into multiple blocks across the day and evening in order to manage child care or other responsibilities. Being able to turn work off is just as important as turning it on.
Wherever you are working today, please know that the DHS family is working to support you. Human resources and medical and occupational colleagues across the country are focused on getting you the support you need. At the Department level, we are working with OPM to use all possible staffing and hiring solutions to get you additional co-workers to help on the operational front lines. If you have human resources questions, please reach out to your Component HR, they in turn work with my CHCO team to address your concerns. On the health front, each Component has dedicated medical and occupational safety and health teams that can answer specific questions about where you work and what you are experiencing related to COVID-19. With their detailed knowledge of DHS, these teams are the experts that can take overarching CDC information and apply it to your daily work. Their mission, duty station, and job-specific guidance is created to protect you and your families.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, be sure to look out for your emotional and mental well-being too. Our Employee Resources page is full of blogs, articles, links, and support information that can help you and your loved ones deal with stress, financial challenges, having additional family members back home, healthy living and more. My previous emails are also available here should you wish to review the resources mentioned in those. Remember, if you need help, do not be afraid to talk to someone. Our Employee Assistance Programs are available 24 hours a day and are confidential, free, and do not affect your security clearance.
All we can do is our best. Some days are harder than other, but rest assured we will all go through this together. By taking small steps forward every day, our DHS mission and family succeeds and stays strong. That is truly a measure of success in these uncertain times.
Chief Human Capital Officer