The UFTI’s Remote Work Series

The T2 Center adapts to remote work

The past few weeks have forced each one of us at T2 to reflect and think about how, within a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us, our community, and the rest of the world. A few weeks ago – just like every other business place – the T2 Center was busy, scheduling in-person training sessions, technical assistance sessions, grant administration, and more. Today, things are very different for the T2 Center (as for the world).  

T2 Center staff show off their remote work offices

Within a short period of time, all UF staff members were asked to transition to virtual training and technical assistance, which was extremely challenging – the T2 Center averages over 100 training sessions annually. However, our staff went into overdrive to make the transition happen overnight. We set up computer equipment at our homes, transferred devices on mobile units, and created homemade whiteboards to use during classes. We reached out to certifying authorities and submitted an enhanced virtual training program plan. With trial runs and new processes, we now have virtual training and testing approved. We now have pre-training sessions to familiarize individual trainees with the online interface and provide an overview of the online system before the class. So far, our trainees have had a very positive response to their virtual courses, evidenced by the feedback they have shared:  

  • “I just wanted to say thank you for your time yesterday. The virtual experience was pretty amazing.” 
  • “Thanks for a fun day.” 
  • “It was a pleasure. Enjoyed my day with you.” 
  • “Thank you so much for teaching this class. It was most enjoyable!” 

In addition to having a dedicated staff to serve the training community, the following tips have helped us transition to virtual work: 

  1. Work: Define, Track, and Evaluate 
    • Technology: We made sure each T2 staff member had the necessary equipment, VPN, and other items needed to perform their work. We also have IT staff in-house, as well as from the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering who are always available to troubleshoot. We still miss our office space (desk, office supplies, and printer – the things we seldom think about and can easily take for granted), but we are making it work.  
    • Communication: or rather over-communication – is helpful. We start our work week with a staff meeting to update everyone on how things are going, what needs immediate attention, and where effort can be shifted (we miss our conference room!). 
    • Expectations: We establish individual goals and report effort using daily work logs (we miss updating one another in person!). 
    • Each day, we touch base in smaller groups to work on training, grants, and service-related activities (we miss the auxiliary team meeting and fiscal team review on Mondays!).  
  2. Socialize with co-workers (virtually) 
    • Skype for Business is our new “watercooler.” We can use it for random IM with interesting news to socialize virtually (we miss our good old break area and our coffee machine that Bill Sampson donated!). 
    • We have planned a virtual group luncheon to replace monthly in-person luncheon (that we miss – needless to say, the social planning committee is missing this!) 
    • We stay connected for the most part of the workday – either through Skype, Zoom, or good old telephone (we miss surprise visits from colleagues!). 
  3. Work-Life Balance 
    • Most staff continue to work 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; however, several have made changes based on individual and family needs (we DO NOT miss fighting the morning rush hour traffic!). 
    • Creating a routine works! (it works just as good for adults as for newborns!) 
    • Scheduled breaks are important. 
    • Getting out of the house: Several staff have taken up other active lifestyle activities to stay healthy (we miss those long East Campus sidewalks for our walks!). 
  4. Adapt 
    • Our team (and also individually) realized that one needs to take time to understand what’s working and what’s not and adapt as needed.  
    • Our team required multiple days to adjust to the new work lifestyle.  
    • Lastly, BE POSITIVE! 

We realize that things aren’t easy now and every day there is a lot of uncertainty. We are all trying our best to navigate the new situation, one day at a time. The goal of all the efforts that the T2 Center has undertaken is to continue serving the professional community, because the trainings and certifications that we administer help keep our roadways safer. Thanks to everyone for sticking with it as we were transitioning and as we continue to evolve with everyday changes and challenges.  

Lastly, we are grateful that we have the opportunity to work remotely and to work at all. We are mindful of essential workers who keep the lights on, the water flowing, and the computers connected. They are making sure food gets to grocery stores and restaurants as well as fuel to gas stations – and to us. We are especially mindful of the doctors, nurses, and behind-the-scenes hospital staff who are on the front lines of the epidemic, taking risks every day in what is likely to be a months-long battle to save lives. And we are mindful of those who have or will lose their jobs during this crisis – our hope is that they will receive the support they need in the short term and the opportunities and restoration they will need in the long term. If for some of them, the T2 Center can be part of their solution, we are here to serve them. 

Please be safe, healthy, and connected. We are all in this together.  

With gratitude!  

UFTI T2 Team