Written by: Luana Scanlan, PRIME Consultants, Owner
The phrase, ‘I work from home’ used to conjure pictures of a coupon clipping mom at her kitchen table, scissors in hand surrounded by newspapers and color-coded envelope files. Or Papa up at the crack of dawn weeding the taro patch. In reality, prior to COVID-19, only 7% of Americans enjoyed the luxury of working from home (Pew Research Center). However, since the pandemic, nationwide surveys conducted by Stanford researcher, Nicholas Bloom, reveal that 42% of the U.S. labor force is now working from home full-time. Thanks to worldwide efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 and its mutations, physical lockdowns or stay-at-home orders are the norm.
In preparation for the inevitable first case of COVID-19 in American Samoa, the Alliance began modified remote-work protocols in mid-2020. The Alliance’s work is inherently people focused: stakeholder meetings, community workshops, team planning conferences are all part of the Alliance team’s normal workday. Engaging people is the most effective method for reaching the Alliance’s target audiences.
The new remote-work protocol allows team members to work from home at least four days per week with a weekly in-person check-in, practicing physical distancing, at the Alliance office. In-person meetings are replaced with Zoom calls and increased email usage. The office itself is physically modified to house ‘pods’ of individuals who work together most often. For example, the office manager and executive director work from partitioned workspaces separated from the rest of the office by a door. The media manager and her assistant are partitioned in another section. And finally, a safety glass partition and locked door were installed at the front entrance. While these modifications enhance physical safety and encourage physical distancing practices, they also create a sense of ‘social’ distancing that may not encourage the type of interaction team members are used to or sustain a team mindset. It can negatively affect morale and combined with other issues going on within the home, may create a negative work culture.
A quick scan of the internet resulted in the following Four Tips for creating a Positive Work Culture while working from home. Notably, the Alliance’s team implemented all these ideas in the office prior to COVID-19 – the key is to successfully implement them virtually.
Tip #1: Encourage virtual social hours – lunchroom, ‘meet the pets’, game day, etc.
Alliance team members regularly ate lunch together in the office common area. Most days someone cooked lunch in the office kitchen, and sometimes they even shared breakfast. On these occasions they shared stories, gave each other feedback, and yes, talked about work.
Tip #2: Create a weekly ‘work-to-do’ communication mechanism – project updates, a ‘feel good’ forum where everyone can post positive things, resources, request help on projects, etc.
Tip #3: Celebrate and acknowledge team members virtually.
Tip #4: Recreate office traditions in virtual formats. Prior to COVID the Alliance held quarterly ‘Me Day’ sessions. The activities were focused on improving wellness among team members and the work team as a unit. It was a time for personal expression, decompression, and focusing on ‘Me’. Virtual painting sessions, cooking meals (i.e., guess what I’m cooking!), reciting favorite poetry.
Ultimately, these Tips encourage taking the positive aspects of the workplace into the virtual workspace. It is important to note that the Alliance equipped each team member with the technology needed to work effectively at home, including internet access and workspace equipment. Now that’s using your COVID-19 funding appropriately!
written by: Jennifer Tofaeono, Executive Director
As we prepare for more repatriation flights into the territory, it is important to adopt practices that will help to strengthen our response to COVID-19. Although American Samoa is the only U.S. Territory that no confirmed case of COVID, it is critical to strengthen our prevention approach. Being prepared is the best way to combat the virus. When we adopt safety measures it becomes second nature. It is important our community recognize the world that we live in today is changing because of COVID. Our children will grow up wearing masks, staying 6 feet away, and it is highly unlikely these practices will change. We must move with the times.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the following tips to protect your home from Covid-19, because it can spread anywhere. It is highly likely if one person in your household is diagnosed with COVID-19, it can spread to other members in the household. CDC defines a household as anyone who currently lives in and shares common spaces. Family members who do not currently live with you (i.e. students at college), are considered part of different households.
When you leave your home remember that you have a chance of being exposed to COVID and bringing it back home. When you share a space it is important to do the following. Wash your hands when you enter the home. Clean and disinfect surfaces in shared spaces and avoid sharing personal household items. This means not sharing dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils or towels with other people in your home. Wash items thoroughly after using. CDC is encouraging vaccination as well. Recognize that these methods may not stop Covid-19 from spreading your home, but they are the best well known attempts to stop COVID-19 at this time.
Remember that as we begin to open our borders, the best way to safeguard yourself is to learn about current practices. If you would like to learn more, visit CDC Website for more information.
Disclaimer: The Alliance was funded through the CARES Act to Prevent COVID-19 by disseminating educational information to victims of domestic violence and programs on precautions to prevent, contain or mitigate COVID-19 and other respiratory illness.
Each month the Alliance information provided with be adapted from federal agencies and/or local public health departments
Recently the United States has begun to implement the Vaccine shots for COVID-19. American Samoa first responders have begun to receive their shots as of last week. We wanted to share the following FACTS:
Fact: Covid-19 give you COVID-19. According to the CDC none of the vaccines in development or in use in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
Fact: COVID-19 vaccines will not cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests. Neither the recommended vaccines currently authorized in the United States cause you to test positive on viral tests.
Fact: people who have gotten sick with COVID-19 may still benefit from getting vaccinated. Re-infection with COVID-19 is possible, and there are severe health risks from COVID-19, for that reason people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are encouraged to get vaccinated.
Fact: Receiving an mRNA vaccine will not alter your DNA
The mRNA from a Covid-19 vaccine does not become part of the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA is stored. Your DNA will not engage or interact with the mRNA because it is separate. The COVID-19 vaccine uses mRNA along with your natural immunity to protect you from the disease.
CDC calls on Americans to wear masks to prevent COVID-19 spread. It's important to remember for some victims Masks and face coverings can be triggering for a number of reasons. Wearing a face covering can trigger memories of abuse, such as the feeling of having a hand covering your mouth or your face pushed into a pillow. They can also make us feel claustrophobic which can trigger fears of having a panic attack or losing control of our breathing. Survivors have also reported that not being able to see the faces of those around them is intimidating and makes them feel worried.
Possible solutions for victims: practice wearing your face covering at home. Take the time to get used to how it feels on your face. Find the right face covering--find a face covering that is comfortable and doesn't irritate you. Get Creative! May wearing a scarf or handkerchief may be less restrictive. Make it smell good--use a scent that makes you feel relaxed (i.e. lavender). Ask for support from your loved ones and ask them for support. They can go for walks with you to ease into wearing masks or help you find the right covering.
We hope victims and survivors are able to wear masks safely, but if wearing a face covering causes severe distress be confident in your decision to not wear one. No survivor should feel shamed for not being able to wear a mask. Stand with survivors in the days ahead. Remember perpetrators will try to restrict women and children's movements due to their lack of ability to wear a mask safely.
Written by staff of the Alliance