Since last spring, Neil McKeeman has been working five shifts a week at the ITS Operations Center on top of his full-time job of managing the center.
Filling in for deployed reservist
McKeeman graciously accepted this double duty — normally the work of two people — when one of his employees, a U.S. Army Reservist, was deployed for a year in Poland. To add to the challenge, a few months later, another employee retired. The Operations Center was allowed to fill the retiree’s position. But given the University’s tight budget, McKeeman could not hire a temp for the year the reservist is away, leaving the Operations Center short staffed.
McKeeman has managed the Operations Center, at ITS Manning, for nearly four years. On site and around the clock, technical professionals monitor and ensure the reliability and security of campus data communications and services and assist the campus community by transmitting emergency alert communications. Ultimately, they minimize network and service downtime for the campus. The Operations Center needs 10 employees to cover the shifts.
While doing his own job plus another, McKeeman works at the Operations Center from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. At the end of his shift at the office, he leaves to work from home for several more hours.
By working that schedule, McKeeman can “cover first shift and overlap with third shift as they leave and second shift as they come in,” he said. “This allows me to meet with the staff of all shifts each week.”
Juggling work of two
What’s it like for McKeeman to juggle all this?
“It gets a little messy at times,” he acknowledged. “My travel time to my home office and time to set up creates a hole in the middle of prime-time afternoon. I try to schedule around that, but sometimes it does not work, and I stay late at work and then finish up at home.”
The Operations Center staff members are designated as Communicable Disease Mandatory Employees (CDME). As such, they are required to be in the office. This means they risk exposure every time they come in.
If McKeeman wasn’t filling in on that shift at the Operations Center, he as a manager could work from home during the pandemic, as nearly all other ITS managers are.
But even when the reservist returns to the Operations Center in May and McKeeman resumes working his one job as a manager, McKeeman said he won’t work from home — even if the majority of other ITS employees are still remote during the continuing pandemic.
“There is too much value being on the floor,” he said.
McKeeman has learned from this experience of performing the job of the people he supervises. He feels he has become a better manager.
“The time I spend on the floor helps me better understand the staff’s day-to-day experience,” he said.
Also, McKeeman said, “I have a better understanding of our role in ITS and the campus at large.”