Here at Solutions for Independence, we worked remotely for seven weeks before cautiously returning to the office. Our Center Support Specialist, Amanda, had worked from home before, as a freelance writer, so time management and self-motivation weren’t really issues that concerned her as we forged ahead into uncharted territory. For Amanda, working from home turned out to be a real struggle, in ways she hadn’t anticipated. These struggles also offered unforeseen opportunities to grow.

As the Center Support Specialist here at SFI, Amanda’s job depends on the day-to-day workflow of her colleagues. The staff often provide her with projects, questions, or problems, and one of her favorite things about the position is the fact that she gets to tackle lots of different things and find solutions to many different challenges.

When we had to close our office for the safety of our staff and consumers, our COO, Debbie, and our ED, Keith, took on responsibilities that required office access, and all other staff were working from home, which meant that Amanda struggled to find her professional purpose. She felt like she had all the motivation in the world and nowhere to utilize it. It didn’t help that the pandemic loomed in the back of her mind as she worked to find new ways to be useful.

The core of what we do here at Solutions for Independence is service. We serve our consumers and our communities through advocacy, support, and education. Although her role has been focused on the administrative needs of the office, everything Amanda has done has ultimately been in support of our mission: to support the independence of people with disabilities through consumer empowerment and community education.

Amanda’s days at home looked extremely different from a normal workday. She missed the interactions with my coworkers. She missed the projects and the opportunity to work together to successfully meet challenges with coworkers to succeed on behalf of our consumers.

But she didn’t need to miss our consumers, because working from home gave her the opportunity to reach out to many of them. Without her normal duties available to her, Amanda’s supervisors assigned the task of reaching out to current and former consumers so she could check in, offer peer support, and let them know we’re here for them. She doesn’t think she’d ever spent so much time on the phone before as she did during the first couple of weeks of the shutdown, but she was grateful to know that even if things weren’t normal, she was still able to provide information and referral, support, and reassure people.

We’re back in the office now — though maintaining our distance, wearing masks, and disinfecting — and Amanda’s work days are beginning to look more like they did before the pandemic, with one key difference: she’s started working more directly with consumers. The chance to work in the community as well as in the office to support people with disabilities is one she might not have gotten so soon if my supervisors and she hadn’t had to figure out my difficult work-from-home situation. At the end of the day, Amanda is grateful to have a job that gives her the opportunity to serve.

The work we do at Solutions for Independence is work we’re all proud of, and we know that we will continue to adapt in order to serve our consumers and community with integrity and empathy.