COVID-19 turns Miller’s work upside down
July 6, 2020
By Alison Kohler
OMAHA, Nebraska — While most GSA employees say their work in the COVID-19 pandemic has been “business as usual,” regional field office employees have had their work turned upside down.
“I lost every sense of my job that I do, and all I did was deal with COVID at the beginning,” said Darren Miller, lease administration manager in GSA’s Nebraska Field Office.
Miller manages about 50 leases. At first he had to postpone his annual facility inspections, which LAMs use to ensure everything about the facility and operation of the lease is being done properly. “I didn’t want to go to a building and take in something or bring out something,” he said.
Miller was able to successfully adjust to his new responsibilities by being flexible and not getting to frustrated with the constant changes.
“There was a continual change in the information being provided and the way forward for us,” he said. “You would just start getting traction with what’s required, and it would change again. It was due to the unprecedented times we were in. If you get stuck on something and get huffy about it, you’re lost.”
The bright spots
Miller said he learned what a high level of commitment he, other GSA employees and our partners have. “I didn’t realize what I had inside me, as well as the folks within my circle I deal with, a lot of them really did step up,” he said. “I have no disappointments at all in any of them.”Specifically, he said agencies were timely with reporting suspected or confirmed COVID-19 incidents and providing the information required for GSA’s facility event notification reports. Lessors have been responsive and considerate about additional costs. He said he felt fortunate to find a company for detailed cleaning that has been “stellar to work with.”
“This is the remarkable part. I can get funding, notice to proceed and clean within a day, day and a half, two days tops,” he said.
Miller recalled several times when calls came in late in the evening, and those he needed to coordinate with were available and responsive. “Everyone was ready to step up and do what needed to be done to get the job taken care of,” he said.
Personally, Miller said he “digs” teleworking. “(Previously) our telework was situational and not scheduled,” he said. “After a week or two, I thought, ‘Oh this isn’t working out.’ Then after that I settled in, I was good to go.”
He said he wished he could go back and tell his three-month-younger self to buy a second monitor for home. “Going down to just the laptop screen was a struggle at first,” he said. “Initially, we thought (teleworking) would be 3-4 weeks.”
Although he tries to stay out of the buildings as much as possible, he is starting to resume inspections and site visits again.
As the situation continues to evolve, he said he appreciates his local leadership. “We’ve done a couple of virtual lunches where we sat in front of our computers and ate our lunches and reconnected a bit,” he said. “They have held us together and have done pretty well so far.”