With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on everyone’s lives, it’s reassuring to know that some things don’t change. Take 3-1-1 for example. Whether it’s 12 pm or 3 am, whether the city is facing a tornado, a flood or a global pandemic, the men and women on the other end of that line are there around the clock, 365 days a year.
But instead of phones ringing at call centres at Ottawa City Hall or in Nepean, they are ringing in homes all over town. Stéphanie Constant, who has been working for the City of Ottawa for around three years, is among the agents fielding calls and stickhandling service requests from home.
Before her shift, Stéphanie did what she does best – answer our questions!
What is it like on the job right now?
It’s busy! We’re getting a lot of calls related to COVID-19. People are asking what to do if they’re not feeling well, the status of different businesses and services, the by-law regulations currently in place, that sort of thing.
How did the transition go from working in the office to working from home?
It went really smoothly. In mid-March, a small group started to work from home to test things out and work out any kinks. I’ve been working from home since March 19, and now most 3-1-1 agents are doing the same.
Do you notice a difference in terms of people’s tones or demeanor?
I speak to a lot of people in a day and I can sense some tension in the community, but the calls are still mostly positive. People are communicating their thanks that we are still working, which is always really nice to hear.
What is the biggest challenge for you on the job right now?
Often you can hear the anxiety in people’s voices when they call, which is hard. Aside from staying home and physical distancing, there’s so little we can do right now, so I can understand that anxiety. I know it’s frustrating, but it’s literally the best way we can fight this pandemic, so I hope everyone can rally to that common cause and just stay home as much as possible.
What’s the best part?
Small things like getting people the information they’re looking for seems to mean a lot to people right now. I like knowing that I’m helping the person on the other end of the line, even if it’s in a small way, getting them information or helping with a service request. I consider myself lucky to be able to still work and support the community while staying home.
How are you staying connected while these physical distancing rules are in place?
I’ve been spending a lot of time talking with friends and family. Discovering that you can FaceTime with multiple people at once was a game-changer!
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