The lessons we've learned while working from home

by Erin Christensen on Mar 31, 2021

General Interest

WFH

work from home

It's been one year since millions packed up their desks, left their offices and full coffee cups behind, and began what most thought would be a quick, 2-week work from home stint. Fast forward an entire year since COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic, and life has changed drastically. With strict social distancing and travel restrictions plus “stay at home” orders enforced, the WFH method has become a way of life for many people, including the Energy Toolbase team.

We can confidently say that most people and industries were impacted by the pandemic in some way, the solar and storage industry included. One of the largest conferences in the renewable energy industry, Solar Power International (SPI), which draws 20,000+ attendees, went virtual this past year, along with every other conference and event. Solar developers were forced to conduct consultations and proposal presentations via Zoom. Projects were postponed or canceled due to regulatory and construction restrictions or loss of interest. But, to the surprise of many, the solar industry remained resilient throughout the course of the pandemic despite the number of obstacles faced. Wood Mackenzie’s 2020 Q3report showed a record 11 GW of new solar capacity installed in 2020 through Q3, positioning the year as the third-largest ever for solar expansion.

For Energy Toolbase (ETB), the safety and well-being of its employees were the number one priority from the start. With offices in Florida, Texas, Hawaii, South Carolina, and Calgary, adhering to local guidelines and the timeline of changes implemented has varied across the team, but one thing that has remained constant, regardless of location, is the encouragement of honest opinions and the importance placed on employee feedback. Now, what was expected to be two weeks at home, has turned into more than 365 days and counting, and although this transition to a WFH lifestyle has had its challenges, we have learned what works for us. Our teammates share their perspectives, experiences, and tips for being successful while staying home: 

Quinn Laudenslager – Senior Product Manager, Acumen EMS™

I take walks with my wife during lunchtime which I have never been able to do before. I have found great pleasure in the freedoms of doing something out of the norm, it's more about focusing on the small incremental things that have made my life better instead of the negatives.

One change I am consciously trying to make is to NOT have meetings back to back. I am looking to schedule either 20 or 45-minute meetings instead of 30 and 1-hour meetings so there are small breaks. I would say the biggest negative is the runaway day where it will be dark outside and I haven’t even stood up from the desk.

I go out of my way to engage with my camera on, with employees and clients, as I feel like I meet at least a dozen people a week and that was way more than a typical work week when I was in the office. Not everyone reciprocates but I find at least ¾ of the people do and I enjoy that face to face quite a lot. In fact, I don’t even feel like I am missing anything.

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Jorie Rottman – Senior Utility Rate Consultant

Working from home has made me realize how crunched I was on the “8-5” life… with family, work, and life, the time just flew, and felt my to-dos just kept piling.

I have realized I am able to be a better person, mother, and teammate by working from home. Being more aware of things around me needing to be done and having the time to do them. With having less drive time and more flexibility on hours, and just in general with how awesome our company is with PTO and sick days/Dr visits, I certainly can give more to all areas of my life now! It wasn’t easy at first juggling everything but gets easier as it goes and grateful for my company and coworkers supporting me through it all.

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Barbara Anderson – Manager, Administrative Services

The one thing I have learned is to make sure I intentionally make time for myself. I am much better about separating myself from my desk and getting moving. I have also started being kinder to myself about not completing everything on my self-made to-do list, and just shifting it to another day. Oh, and getting better at not working on the weekend.

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Adam Gerza – VP, Business Development

WFH was a hard adjustment for me early on because I liked going into the office and having a set routine. For the last year our household has been two working parents, with a two-year-old, and no daycare support, so it’s been a lot of taking turns and late nights getting work done. I’m grateful to have supportive teammates and an awesome employer that allows me to flex my schedule. One of the best silver linings has been spending more time with my daughter Penelope and getting to know a lot of the parents in my community because I’m always running into them at the local parks!

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Cheyenne Arana – Junior Utility Rate Specialist

Something that keeps me motivated when working from home is exercising during my lunch break; I personally try to go for a 30-minute run. When I come back from it, not only are my endorphins pumped up but I have a sense of clarity and calmness as well. Going back to work with this state of mind has helped me tremendously in keeping concentration and focus throughout the day.

In regards to getting interrupted by a busy household, I made a sign to put on the door when I am busy and my family has learned to respect it. If my mind feels cluttered, I will step away from the computer to take a 5-minute break and pick up my juggling balls to practice! It is a hobby I have picked to learn something new but to also exercise my brain, as in both the utility rates department and in juggling, accuracy is very important!

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Tracy Fosterling – Marketing Manager

I have been working from home for nearly two and a half years, so I've had some extra time to find what works for me and what doesn't. But since starting my work from home journey, I have really realized that I need to take time out of my day to get away from the screen, and actually take a break. Whether that be a lunch break, taking my dogs for a walk, or just sitting outside. I used to just work the entire day without looking away because I felt like I was at home and I should be doing that, but lately, it has been important for me to remember to unplug for a bit. It is really easy to let work take over your life while working from home, and just remembering that work is not your entire life is so important! I've also been able to spend my entire day with my dogs, which I love! 

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Erin Christensen – Senior Utility Rate Consultant

The beginning was really tough, working from home with a baby/toddler definitely requires some adjusting! I started waking up earlier to take advantage of the time that my daughter was still sleeping. I quickly came to realize that I am most productive shortly after waking, so each day I try and tackle my toughest tasks first. Also, having no commute means I get to maximize this discovery.

Now, my daughter spends most days with her grandparents who live close by. What a blessing! But when reflecting on this past year, I realize that I got to spend so much more time with my daughter than I would have if there wasn’t a pandemic. Totally worth the gray hairs and wrinkles!

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Some of Energy Toolbase’s offices have reopened but whether team members return to the office full-time, continue working from home, or take advantage of both options have been left solely up to them. When a team is filled with passionate hardworking people, work location becomes less of a concern and during the last year we’ve gained strength and momentum, the same can be said for the solar and storage industry as a whole. 

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