Working from home, from three reporters’ perspectives

Office routine, daily commute all gone in this sudden COVID-19 world.

Nancy Vogt set up a home office in a spare bedroom. Since taking this photo, with the family cat perched on the table, she hung a calendar on the wall. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Nearly two weeks ago, we three Echo Journal newsroom staff moved out of the Echo Journal building in Pequot Lakes to begin working from our homes, of course because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The goal is for each of us to stay healthy so we can continue writing stories and taking photos to share with our readers.

As reporters, we didn’t need much - a camera, a laptop computer and possibly a second computer monitor sufficed. In today’s world, we’re all connected - in fact, we can communicate with every Forum Communications employee regardless of what city or state we’re in - via different computer programs.

Following are short summaries of our work-from-home experiences.

Nancy Vogt

I’ve been working from home for nearly 14 years, ever since I got my first laptop computer at work.


However, work done at home was during off hours - nights and weekends - or a random day when I started working at home in the morning, got on a roll and just never made it to the office.

I have to admit, that first day truly working from home Monday, March 23, was weird.

Rather than setting up at my kitchen table or the living room couch like I usually do, I decided to turn what we call the “computer room” into a home office. Ignoring the small desk with the desktop computer we haven’t turned on in years, I cleared my scrapbook table to make room for my laptop and second computer monitor. I even concocted a way to have a standup desk using a foot stool.

It’s a nice space. But I just couldn’t get comfortable or sit still. Add to that the family cat who was equally uncomfortable. His day, too, was thrown - not by me being home, but by me acting not in the usual way. And come 4:30 p.m. every day, he jumps up on my table to check things out and to try to get me to give him an early dinner.

I’ve since settled into my new work space. The online communication with my co-workers keeps me from feeling too lonely. I like singing out loud with the radio. I don’t mind showering, throwing on very casual clothes and walking 10 steps to work instead of driving 15 miles. And the morning breakfast sandwiches my husband makes and delivers on his days off are quite appreciated.

We don’t know how long this will last. For now, it works. Travis Grimler and I are getting out to take photos in our communities. But I do look forward to seeing my co-workers and more community members face to face again.

In the meantime, we appreciate all those who are still physically working at the Brainerd Dispatch office to help get this newspaper into your hands and online, as well as the carriers who deliver your newspapers.

Travis Grimler

At this time I can't help but feel that I am blessed.


A lot of people will have some difficult experiences ahead of them due to social distancing and whatnot. I'm sorry if that includes you. I'm not saying this to gloat, only to share that I know I'm blessed in that both of my jobs are considered essential.

This is even more of a blessing because this winter in particular, hardship would have been difficult to manage or handle, as I'm sure is true for many people.

My biggest change is working eight-hour days at home on my small home desk next to my bed, listening as my two spoiled, but sweet, dogs snore. When they aren't sleeping they are trying to disrupt my phone calls and typing, which I can't be mad about.

Otherwise, my pastimes (most recently magnet fishing) are often outdoors by myself. Not to sound glib, but I feel like I've been preparing for this my whole life.

The pandemic has made me uncomfortable for the sake of my friends and family who are at higher risk, or simply lonely, but I cannot deny that I am mostly just blessed.

Dan Determan

I have been working from home for about two weeks now, and it is far from ideal.

I’ve set up an “office” in the spare bedroom of my basement, which previously had been repurposed as a disorganized storage room, with diaper boxes full of my toddler’s too-small and hand-me-down clothes stacked five-high. The room is about five degrees cooler than the rest of the house, and you can feel it.

Gone is my big L-shaped desk area at the Echo Journal, replaced with a wobbly card table. My second monitor is gone, making it much harder to multitask on my computer.


I’ve shared an office space with Travis Grimler for the past five years, but filling in for him is Mork, our inquisitive cat who loves standing between my face and my laptop.

Mork is also the most vocal cat I have ever encountered, and will walk into my new home office and shout for no particular reason. Her food bowl is full, her litter box is clean. She just needs to announce her presence regardless of whether or not I acknowledge her. If I close the door and lock her out, she’ll just run her front paws on the door, which is no less distracting.

Now that my wife is working from home as well and my son is here too, I will have a two-hour period every day where I hear the music of “Frozen” or “Toy Story” while trying to work.

It isn’t the best work environment, but if more people are safe and healthy because of it, that’s what matters.

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