Life under COVID started out somewhat confusing and slightly ambiguous. In the five months since I started working from home, things have gotten tougher, not easier the longer things stay the same.

It was mid-March when I and my fellow Placer County employees were directed to work from home. When the email directive was received on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday around the ides of March, people were scurrying about identifying just what they would need in order to work from home for the two-week period we were expecting to work remotely. For people whose workstations were laptops docked to monitors and keyboards on our desks, the move was easy enough (yay, me!). I had the opportunity help a small number of people load bulky equipment into the back of SUVs more accustomed to hauling groceries and pets than computer equipment.

Now, however, we have settled into our routines and we’ve learned to accomplish all that we had previously, only we get to do it from the comfort of our own homes. For many, that means new “offices” have been established on a kitchen counter, in the family room, or on the kitchen table. Some fortunate souls are lucky enough to have an actual office from which they can work. That puts me in the “lucky” column.

In the past, when an elected official (County Supervisor, Sheriff, Controller, Tax Collector, or Clerk-Recorder) needed support from my team, we would discuss the requirements with their staff, analyze the requirements, propose a solution, meet to come to an agreement, develop the solution and go into testing and acceptance. Typically, this could take 4-8 weeks depending on the size and urgency of the project.

With COVID, those timelines have evaporated. Now, an elected official, or our Department Head, has a thought. It gets passed “downhill” and ends up on my desk if it is a web-related task.

My current project originally targeted a 4-5 week delivery date. But our client (a different Department / Division) got the Board of Supervisors to schedule an emergency meeting to formally approve this project. So now, my 4 week project is a one-week project. Worse, on Friday at 4:30, I get an email from a team member in the Client’s department.

“How are you handling ‘Topic C’?” she asked.

“What is ‘Topic C’?” I asked, having no clue about what she was asking.

“It’s a nuanced item in the data we provided you for this project. Did I forget to mention this in our previous meetings?” she asked.

“Yes. Yes you did. YES. YOU. DID.” I responded as politely as I could grateful my email would not betray the string of curse words that were flowing freely from my mouth at this point.

“Well,” she said, “we’re going to need that in the application on Monday. Will that be a problem?” As a matter of fact, yes, it is a problem. That nuance adds a layer of dependency into our data model. Basically we’re starting over at Square One.

Such is my life under COVID . The same unreasonable requests. But with a much shorter timeline, and a chain-of-command woefully unwilling to support their employees.

Did I mention that my “other life,” the political one, is dealing with an unprecedented election? All-mail-voting. Digital organizing. Fundraising challenges. Uncooperative candidates. You know…. the usual stuff. But I can’t allow these two worlds to collide. As a county employee, I can’t discuss politics. So I can’t tell my boss, “give this assignment to John, cuz I’m canvassing this weekend.”

So, I’m going to spend some hours on Sunday evening, trying to shoe-horn in a new data dependency into a forms / workflow system that does a piss-poor job of handling anything but the simplest data relationships. Wish me luck!

That’s my life under COVID. How’s yours?

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