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George Mason UniversitySchool of Business

At the Doorstep of a Pandemic

Written by Greg Johnson on .

Lacey Morison

It’s been a whirlwind of a ride for Lacey Morison, BS Management ’09. Her husband’s job in the Foreign Services took the couple and their young daughter all the way to Shanghai. As chief of Budget and Finance for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Morison had to adjust to new challenges of supervising subordinates and handling sensitive information while living in a different time zone. Little did the Morison family know when they arrived to China in fall of 2019, that they would be on the doorstep of a global pandemic.

Morison was acclimating to life and work in Shanghai. Due to the nature of her job, she completed her responsibilities in a designated space at the consulate during regular office hours. The 13-hour time difference from the rest of her co-workers meant that much of what she did was not during regular work hours. For these late nights, she had a separate State Department office. It was never easy, but she had her system and settled in. And then the pandemic struck.

“Shanghai is very cosmopolitan unlike most of China. When availability of items became scarce, that was when we got worried,” says Morison. In January, companies and businesses started shutting down. Immediately following, the State Department authorized departure for families. The authorized departure quickly evolved into a mandatory order for all eligible family members under 21 years of age. Thinking of their three-year-old daughter, Morison decided to book a direct flight for the two of them to New York City, the United Nations’ headquarters. “We were treated multiple times at the airport and had our temperatures checked three separate times before even setting foot on the plane,” she says.

Lacey Morison

Due to the urgency, Morison had brought limited belongings with her to New York. After receiving a new laptop, phone, and getting approval from the doctor, Morison was able to go back into the office for a five-day work week. However, she would soon find out that she traveled from one COVID-19 hot zone to the new epicenter for it in the United States. The office shut down, presenting yet another predicament of teleworking from home with a young child. “The behavior of a three-year-old is very temperamental, but thankfully my co-workers are understanding,” she says. “I set up tasks and expectations, but so many things are last minute that I’m forced to be flexible.”

The work-life balance proves to be even more difficult with Morison’s husband separated from the family in China. “We video chat with him as often as possible. It hasn’t been easy for either of us or our daughter,” she says. Each day brings new lessons about how she can work from home more effectively. Her daughter needs attention and they find it imperative to plan enjoyable activities around job responsibilities. When she first arrived in Shanghai, Lacey Morison had no idea what the next year would bring. But she has become an expert at adapting and continues to roll with the punches.