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Lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic

We have all learned many valuable lessons during the pandemic. The NCRA Technology Committee shared some of what they learned – from getting organized to upgrading their tech to taking time for themselves.

We need each other now more than ever

My national membership really paid off when COVID hit. I had people I could reach out to as we brainstormed how to continue delivering the same high-quality services remotely. I watched as social media pages exploded with questions. The pages are a great way to communicate, but sometimes you are not sure you can trust the answers. I value the answers I get from NCRA higher than anything I read on social media.

Small-town service matters. Years ago, when I was first purchasing equipment, my dad said to stay local. I could have purchased my equipment from a big-box online retailer for a cheaper price, but I never would have received the same level of service. The same has been true when maneuvering the financial aspects of COVID. My small-town bank stepped up and delivered service that I never would have received from a big bank. They know me by name and really took the weight off my shoulders when it came to our finances.

Andrea Kreutz, CLVS

Des Moines, Iowa

Time to get organized!

One of the most important work lessons I have learned is to become more organized in my work. I do both reporting and CART captioning, so when the pandemic hit last year, I suddenly found myself without work. However, that did not last too long. After a month or so, the whole world picked up on Zoom. Now the world could still have meetings, just not face to face. This opened up an entire new world for CART captioners who were sitting at home without any work. Overnight, it seems, the demand for our skills increased exponentially.

I found myself in the same boat as everyone else as far as having to learn new skills and becoming comfortable with new equipment setups and programs. Instead of shying away, I embraced this opportunity with zeal, and I am glad I did. However, although I had lots of new work, I found myself struggling to find everything I needed when I needed it. For example, I would have a job coming up and I couldn’t find the Zoom link. I would search email boxes looking desperately for the information I needed, numbers, names, PowerPoints, etc. Or I knew I received a message that I needed to reply to, but was it on Facebook? Email inbox? Phone? Or any other number of social media accounts? This was truly sink or swim.

One day it hit me hard. I realized I needed some organizational skills and fast. I started making folders just for URL links. I made folders on my desktop for job information. I increased the details in my online calendar to include links and info just in case I lost it. Instead of a desktop covered in icons where I kinda-sorta knew where things were, I now had a clean desktop with organized folders. It was a good thing!

If I had not made that effort to suddenly change my organizational habits, I would have had a lot of problems. So, I can say thank you to COVID-19 for forcing me to become more organized.

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Mobile, Ala.

Things can change for the better

I’ve learned a lot during the pandemic.

  1. People are most important. Look for innovative ways to stay connected.
  2. Home is more important than ever before. When the world is crazy, home is a sanctuary. Don’t put off those projects; instead, prioritize them, especially if the result means you can gather with your people in person or virtually.
  3. Make sure your technology is solid. Between a global pandemic, crazy politics, extended protests, an historic fire season and snowstorm, you want to be overprepared.
  4. Don’t spend so much; instead, give more to worthy causes.
  5. Things can change for the better. This pandemic is showing us traffic can be lighter, which improves air quality, and Zoom means zero commute time to work. Also, fewer of us have colds and flu this winter.
  6. Buy your toilet paper by the bale at Costco before you run out.

Family and friends: On a personal level, I learned how truly important seeing family and friends is. I am lucky to have an office that is super conducive to social distancing, and seeing a few coworkers regularly is a treat. My book club went from meeting once a month in person to twice a month on Zoom. Some people have more time to read, and seeing each other and just hangin’ is a gift.

My husband and I are empty nesters, but we are blessed to have a large family, including seven grandchildren. Our house has always been “family central,” with regular family dinners that challenged us to get everyone a seat at the table. The latest additions to the family are twin boys, 2 years old. They grow and change so fast, and I can’t help but wonder if people in masks is normal for them. What will they think when they get to see everyone in person, maskless, when this is all over? We were grateful to be able to see family in the backyard during nice weather, which is truly seasonal here in Oregon. We Facetime, Zoom, and WhatsApp with family and friends frequently now too.

Of course, we have all had pandemic birthdays, and those especially leave us wanting that connection. For my husband’s January birthday, when we couldn’t be together in person, my daughter made these “family faces” of the kids, their partners, and the grandchildren. We played a Zoom Family Jeopardy game of little-known fun facts about each other, so we were together virtually too. I can’t bring myself to take the photos down. I’m thinking they will stay up until this is all over, so we can still be surrounded by our amazing family.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Portland, Ore.

Flexibility is key

I have learned a few important things during this pandemic. Being flexible is one especially important thing I have learned, but also making sure that the most important things can continue, like staying close to the ones I love, even if it’s by video, and taking care of my physical and mental health.

My family is scattered across the United States. Because we can’t travel as freely as we have in the past to visit one another, we constantly use video, phone, text, and apps to chat with each other and stay close. All of us have been affected by the grim reality of this pandemic. We are not promised a single day, as I was reminded when I lost my brother-in-love to COVID. The lesson is to keep those you love close and make sure they know how much you love them.

When everything shut down and we were quarantined, I knew I needed to update my routines. I learned new morning routines; work-from-home routines; healthy eating routines; and found new ways to exercise, not going to the gym or yoga studio. My yoga studio started providing “virtual yoga,” which is awesome.

This is where flexibility comes in. I work for U.S. District Court, and am proud to say that the crucially important work of the judiciary has continued. I and the top-notch reporters that I work with have met the challenges of hearings and trials on many different platforms we had never used before: Zoom, Webex, and in-person hearings with plexiglass in place and speakers wearing masks, providing realtime to judges and chambers staff remotely or in person with professionalism and collegiality.

Suzanne Trimble, RPR, CRR

Sanford, Fla.

You can tackle your challenges

What I learned from the pandemic is that we need to be prepared to adjust our normal routines and compensate for just about anything that can be thrown at us at a moment’s notice. This pandemic does not discriminate. It has affected people from all walks of life. COVID-19 does not care if you are black or white, adult or child, American or Asian. I’ve learned that we have become united more so as a nation trying to battle the effects of this debilitating and sometimes fatal outbreak.

This pandemic has certainly brought awareness through the technological arena as well. Working as official reporters, of course, we’ve had to accept the challenges of reporting voices through facial masks or hearing testimony through layers of plexiglass screens in the courtroom. It has forced us to figure out how to work with programs like Zoom and Cisco Webex when reporting hearings online and dealing with the challenges of reporting multiple people who tend to step over one another while speaking, not to mention the challenges of background noises with dogs barking and children playing.

Online hearings and meetings have been a learning experience as far as teaching participants when and why to mute their microphones, who should be displayed on the video screen as far as participants and encouraging observers to sit in the background off-screen in order to leave more screen room for the active participant speakers. We’ve brought electronics to the forefront in being able to provide hearings online, to facilitate the capturing of realtime to the judiciary, and in general to provide an avenue for the judicial system to keep on running instead of courts encountering major backlogs. Technology has allowed us to be able to keep lines of communication open with our family members in times when social distancing has kept us apart. COVID-19 has forced us to find solutions to keep those lines of communication open through use of online platforms, whether it be for a one-on-one conversation or a gathering of hundreds of people.

If anything, we’ve learned that we cannot be complacent and stuck in our normal routines. In life we must accept the challenges that are thrown at us and learn to analyze the situation and promulgate solutions utilizing our available resources such as discussion dialogue with coworkers on work environment situations, family members on family issues, and friends on social matters and events. We all need each other to lean on to cope with the changes and provide a support mechanism as we continue to travel to the point in time when this pandemic is no longer an issue in our present-day affairs.

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS

Dallas, Texas

From shoes to slippers

I’ve learned that reporting Zoom depositions, hearings, and other proceedings from home saves a ton of time (no driving, setting up, or breaking down), allowing for more self-care, mostly involving lots of daily hiking in the fresh air for me. Being in nature is a good thing. It’s so much more relaxing to wear bunny slippers instead of girly shoes at work – like the captioners always bragged about. They’re right!

Sandra Mierop, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC

Anchorage, Alaska

Seven random things

  1. Gratitude helps you fall in love with the beautiful life you already have.
  2. Daily checklists for tasks have been a game changer during the pandemic.
  3. Love on your friends and family, because life is way too short and unpredictable to live with a grudge.
  4. Self-love is the best love. You must pour into you before you can fill someone else’s cup.
  5. You are in control of your mood. You can develop habits to instantly make yourself feel joy and get out of that depressive state of mind.
  6. I have a calendar for all the things! I use a virtual and physical interchangeably. I have a court reporting calendar, captioning calendar, a calendar for my other businesses, and one for my own personal life. You can merge all calendars into Google, which is nice. I always set the maximum number of reminders on each so that it is impossible to forget. It sounds obnoxious, but let me tell you, it works!
  7. I prioritized my health and fitness as much as I could during the pandemic. My advice is to drink all the water and, if you want to, add a lemon or lime. Also, I work out three times a week to keep my energy up and to keep my brain focused.

Denee’ Vadell

Edison, N.J.

Find ways to enjoy yourself

The pandemic was a time to get some things figured out for me personally. I realized how much I miss doing the things that keep me mentally and physically healthy. Last February was so busy, I think I went straight from writing the record to editing and proofing the record on an endless cycle. I was sitting most (if not all) of every day. And while I do enjoy my work, I had forgotten how much I enjoy going for a run, taking the dog on a quick walk, or reading something that doesn’t begin with “Would you state your name for the record?” I have attended church more online than I did in person over the last year. And I love it! My book club is meeting virtually, and what a joy it has been to discuss books with friends. I have noticed that I am happier and more equipped to deal with whatever life might be throwing at me on any particular day. I am happy with my new routines. There’s still plenty of time for work, don’t get me wrong! But my days are more enjoyable when I find time to do things that make me smile.

Amy Doman, RMR, CRR

Carmel, Ind.