COLORADO — It's been about a year since many employers sent people home to work virtually because of COVID-19 concerns. For some, it's something that will stick around even as the workforce returns to some sort of pre-pandemic model.
Some companies offered working from home as an option even prior to the pandemic, but whether it's teaching, running a business, or learning- there are pros and cons for many in the virtual world.
At the office
John Holly, a retired Army Major General runs Davidson Technologies, a defense contractor in Colorado Springs. Some employees worked remotely before COVID-19, but the pandemic made it the usual business practice for several weeks last spring.
"Everybody on my senior leadership team knows my dog well, whether they're located here or out of state," Holly said, his dog, Dakota, a Great Pyrenees, will often weigh in on discussions for remote calls.
For Holly the biggest impact throughout the pandemic has been bringing employees together socially. Over the holidays, a party wasn't possible, instead the company hosted a drive-through gift giveaway for its workers. While only a few people work out of the office, remote work is something that's been a critical part for the company before and during the pandemic.
"The most important thing about operating remotely is maintaining connectivity with all the employees and do it frequently," Holly said.
Davidson Technologies happened to purchase special technology just as the pandemic reached Colorado last year, making remote work and collaboration easier.
In the classroom
For Scott Blatnick, a Rampart High School math teacher, the days of virtual learning haven't been easy.
"It's always hard to motivate kids, but I've found it a lot harder to motivate kids," Blatnick said. Recently vaccinated, he's hoping for days when we can fist bump students and have more interaction in person. Currently, he splits time balancing remote learning and the few students allowed to come in person.
Academy District 20, the district for Rampart will start allowing more students four days a week March 15th.
For teachers like Blatnick- some of the challenges include a lack of student interaction. Many teachers haven't required students to turn cameras on and have mics on during class.
"Personally, I didn't want to force kids to do that if they didn't feel comfortable, I have kids at home learning and I know they can feel uncomfortable," Blatnick said, who added many students will type out questions or concerns instead of turning mics on to talk about it. Many times, Blatnick is teaching to a list of names.
"I always believe in lead by example so I'm leaving my camera on just hoping one of them will turn it on," Blatnick said.
The challenges when it comes to remote learning don't stop at the teachers- for students, it's present as well. While virtual learning itself isn't new- the widespread use it is.
For Kennedy Peak, a senior at Rampart High School, virtual classes are not her preferred way to learn.
"I would say at the beginning of every semester all teachers are like oh turn on your camera I want to see your beautiful faces people turn them on and then immediately turn them off," Peak said.
For Peak, the distractions of her phone and other technology is challenging.
"Some of my grades have really dropped and a lot of my classmate's grades have dropped," Peak said.