It has been more than a year since the COVID-19 virus fundamentally changed our daily lives, but with mass vaccinations underway, it is now possible to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The past year presented many challenges, as well as new opportunities, and this was the focus of discussion during the panel session “Strategies to Increase Efficiency, Reduce Cost, Accelerate Work, and Maintain Operational Excellence,” held on March 10 during the 2021 Waste Management Symposia virtual conference. “Last year was a tough year for all of us,” said John Eschenburg, president and chief executive officer of Washington River Protection Solutions, the Department of Energy’s liquid waste contractor at the Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash. “[There were] challenges top to bottom.”
Some of the challenges the session speakers said they faced included transitioning personnel to working remotely, ensuring safety with reduced on-site staff, and reducing workplace stress caused by the pandemic. Yet, the panelists found lessons learned from the pandemic that have created opportunities for positive change, such as the ability to reduce overhead costs while offering staff better a work/life balance by continuing to allow remote working where possible post-pandemic. “Teleworking is here to stay at some level,” Eschenburg noted.