Working at home hasn’t been a logistical challenge for some City Hall workers – such as Transportation Director Jay Monty – but it has been a social challenge as he continues on with projects like normal, but admits the relationships are missing.
Monty is in charge of transportation, parking and innovating an old and inadequate state transit system that services Everett. He has been on the front lines of the changing of the city of the last five years, frequently on the go to meetings outside of City Hall.
That has served him well, he said, in transitioning to a completely home work environment since City Hall closed on March 12. He said his role at City Hall was always unique in that he already transitioned to digital record keeping and worked mobile a lot already while at state meetings in Boston.
“The tough part is not having face-to-face time with folks,” he said on Monday from his home near hospital hill. “It’s a big part of relationship building and putting projects together. Having face-to-face time helps show why things are important to a project and losing that has been difficult. It’s the thing more than anything that has been challenging.”
Already a veteran of Zoom meetings with consultants, Monty said he has adjusted to using the online meeting platform. However, he said those types of meetings were always supplemented with physical roundtable meetings of regional experts, or City Hall department heads. There are things that happen in those meetings, he said, that cannot be replicated on Zoom.
“There is definitely something lost in the loss of personal contact,” he said. “When you look at the progress we made with buses and bike paths, so much of that depended on being in a 10-person meeting with others and things in those meetings grew organically out of that. The things lost on Zoom is there is a structure and you have to stick to what the agenda is. There are no side conversations, which are what is important to getting things done and developing ideas.”
That said, there is plenty of work still going on at the online City Hall.
Monty said many of the projects continue on as they had been before the closure, while others might have slowed down a little.
“Very few projects have slowed down,” he said. “If they have, it’s because our partners like the MBTA or MassDOT are taking up all their bandwidth to deal with this crisis. However, projects like the bike path extension have consultants and everything continues on as if nothing’s happened.”
Other things, like the Transportation Demand Management ordinance, is simply on pause while they wait to find out how the Council will adjust to meeting online. Once that is ironed out, City initiatives like that will move ahead as usual.
On most days, though, Monty said he tries to keep a structure – getting up at the same time as usual, showering, exercising and dressing in the same fashion as he did at City Hall. This, he said, creates some normalcy, and it’s a lesson many working from home have realized in recent weeks.
Because his wife is an essential health employee, he is at home alone frequently, so he said he makes a point of getting out to exercise – usually a bike ride through the city at safe distances. He also said he takes breaks by tinkering in his machine shop at home to take his mind off of work.
That’s because work can often take over, as he said to fight boredom he has found himself working on City Hall matters over the weekend when normally he wouldn’t work. It’s the same for the night, as he has adjusted to working later into the evening.
“It’s definitely been a learning experience to be in this situation,” he said.