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Virtual Water Break Discussion and Responses

Below are some of the responses that have been generated through the Virtual Water Break Series. Thank you to everyone who participates and shares their input so that others can learn from it.

Week 1: Staying Connected During COVID-19

Poll Question: What is the primary thing you are doing to stay connected?

  • Zoom, Skype, Go To Meeting or other online meeting technology
  • Lots more phone calls
  • More Emails
  • Primary Response – ALL OF THE ABOVE

Discussion Question: What creative things have you heard of or are you doing to stay connected during this challenging time?

  • My team has a Zoom coffee break at 9:30 a.m.
  • It's not necessarily creative, but we're just sending a lot more emails to keep everyone on the same page. I work in a lab and we have been split into two groups. The emails keep everyone up to speed on what's going on.
  • Interjecting humor and asking the same check-in questions that would be asked in the office in a group chat.
  • We are having a 15-minute video call daily just to say hello to each other. As engineers, we don't always feel like we want these connections, but we are always happier after the call.
  • HR created an e-mail group to allow those of us working from home to share photos of our "coworkers" (pets, children) and our office space.
  • Learning how to do Skype meetings at work, Zoom gatherings with friends and family.
  • Virtual happy hours, game nights, replacing sports brackets with song brackets.

Week 2: Working Together While Social Distancing

Poll Question: What video or online meeting software are you using in your workplace?

  • Skype for Business
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Go To Meeting/Go To Webinar
  • Webex

    Discussion Question: What topics or speakers could MN AWWA provide that would be helpful during these challenging times?

  • What new smart technologies should we be learning about? Any good online training webinars we can view(water loss control, water efficiency, improving operations)?
  • Communication between AWWA’s member operators and its member vendors, regarding vendors that are part of the “critical supply chain” providing products, services and technical support to our “essential employees.” With the loss of our seasonal conferences and our inability to be out visiting with our utilities, it’s very difficult to let the utilities know that we are still working and available to them.
  • Speakers from MDH

Week 3: Water Utilities and the 'New' Normal?

Poll Question: are your customer service calls increasing or decreasing? Or staying the same?

  • Almost an even split – but “increasing” and “staying the same” were the top 2 vote getters

    Discussion Question: What has stayed the same this last month? What is Different?

  • Everyone working physically apart and trying to keep the communications open is different. The work load is higher, though many of the components of the work are the same and the daily ritual of going to work, though in a different place, remains the same.
  • We are disconnecting with coworkers and it beginning to worry me that we are losing our personal connections with staff. Most notedly, trying to social distance, work separate shifts, etc.
  • Modified working hours.
  • Not going into peoples houses to complete meter work. Trying to keep 6 foot distances. Not much different otherwise.
  • Project work (design or construction) takes longer, schedules are being extended. But the same needs are present to keep infrastructure up to maintain safe drinking water!
  • We are trying to put off meter repairs unless there is a emergency such as a water leak.Our billing reports indicate that our customers as a whole are using the same amount of water, but more water is billed to residential than commercial or institutional accounts.
  • We have split shifts for O&M crews and half of CS is working remotely. Delivering quality services at an affordable price.
  • Staffs concern about staying healthy, not allowing customers and contractors into our building, this webinar is something that has happened due to COVID-19.What has remained the same is our quality of service, treatment of water, operator professionalism.
  • Interaction with customers and co-workers has changed. The treatment stays the same.
  • Due to the reduction in staffing at the plants, some of our yearly maintenance is getting postponed.Day to day operations have remained the same.
  • More teleconferencing to stay connected.Remote operators still operating remotely - no face to face.
  • Less meetings and shorter meetings. We are tackling a number of difficult issues/problems that we have been procrastinating.Do not chat with co-workers as often, but do talk more with customers.
  • How we do are daily work wearing more PPE , we have stopped in building meter repairs no matter if signal residential or apartment or commercial. Having a split shift, not complete crew working the same time during the day.
  • Locates and well round are still the same as always.Other than that, most things have changed.We are operating with 50% of the staff Mon-Wed, and the other 50% Thurs - Sat, which most people taking 10 hours of leave to equal their 40 hours.Everyone is working on individual tasks. Our meter change out program is on hold.Our jetting is on hold.Office staff is rotating so only one supervisor is in the office while the others are working from home.
  • Different:Many people working from home, social distancing walking down the hall, people reaching out more to talk rather than email, trying to have normalcy in this strange world. The same:people doing a great job in their jobs despite the changes that happened!
  • I haven't noticed much difference yet, partially because I haven't started with on site construction yet and all of our designs were mostly done by the time the pandemic restrictions were in effect. However, one of our neighborhood reconstruct projects was cancelled when it was proposed to council because enough residents spoke out about the financial burden some people are facing in light of COVID-19 restrictions, and they did not feel that they would be able to pay the assessment fees for the project.
  • We have introduced some new PPE (half mask respirators) in order to save on the use of disposable masks.Each employee has their own mask that can be cleaned and maintained.Replacement cartridges were made available to our utility, but not the general public (nice). Level of service has remained the same.We have yet to move to reduced staffing as the pandemic is not known to be wide spread in our area to date.Provision are being made to split the staff when the need to do so arises.
  • Working at home seems as busy as working in the office.
  • From an Engineering and plan review standpoint, the positive differences are we've moved to nearly 100% paperless and travel time for attending meetings has "virtually" gone away.The down side is that we've lost the day to day personal interactions with each other.The big item that I think has stayed the same is that we're still getting the work done.It's a little bit different approach with a few more things to keep in mind but the work is getting done.
  • We are not as able to perform work at same efficiency level due to remote workplace separations.We still have alot of work to do!i.e. we can not let up on the work we do for daily water operations or future implementation of needed projects.
  • I have been working from home so the biggest difference is I don't see human co-workers anymore, just my demanding felines.The invoices keep coming in, and that will never change.
  • The major difference has been our protocol for employee safety.Most situations where we may interact with the public has been postponed unless it is an emergency.On the administrative side we don't have face to face contact - everything is online, over the phone or through mail.The majority of what we do as a utility has remained the same.
  • Much of the utility has switched over to working digitally and many utility/customer interactions are being postponed leaving bigger gaps in scheduling and routine maintenance. Things that remain the same include great communication and my ability to complete tasks and duties no different from what I could complete in the office setting.
  • Public interaction. Providing safe drinking water.
  • Much less face to face interaction with our customers.The number of service repairs has continued to be the same.
  • Staff distancing.
  • The same? Initiative, enthusiasm, and inventiveness to solving problems.
  • what's different? I'm also spending more of my day communicating with staff both collectively and individually to help address concerns and apprehensions.
  • different? concerns about catching Coronavirus from wastewater and from one another when working outside in construction settings.
  • Discussion Question response:Not much has been the same. Our operations are adjusted to insure distancing. The only thing that is exactly the same are the locates and well rounds. We began hydrant flushing earlier than normal and exercising gate valves is usually left to the seasonal staff but we don't have any this year so our full time guys are doing it. Also, we have 50% of the crew working Mon-Wed, the other 50% Thurs-Sat. All office staff (supervisors) are on a rotating schedule so I work two weeks at home then one in the office.
  • Different = less meeting and shorter meetings. Different = tackling some tough problems and issues that we have been procrastinating.
  • Different: More video conferencing to stay connected

Contact Us

2355 Fairview Ave North, #117
Roseville, MN 55113
612. 216. 5004