Continuous Improvement blog Reflections on working from home
Back in April, I wrote a blog about my experience of working from home. At that point, I had been working from home for four weeks. It’s now been six months, and I thought this seemed a good time to reflect on this strange period.
Remember March when we thought lockdown was only going to be for three weeks? Who knew? I remember thinking that I’d probably be working home for about six or seven weeks. I started out with only my laptop, but soon collected the rest of my set up from the office as I found the small screen on the laptop difficult to work with, and my back was getting sore using a dining chair. Three months in, I purchased a desk so that I no longer had to take up space at the dinner table.
I’m very fortunate to work in a people-oriented organisation, that has done everything possible to facilitate working from home. This included the introduction of a rest and recuperation day every Friday during the initial lockdown period and beyond, followed by the introduction of ‘meeting free Fridays’. I have found this incredibly useful as emails are kept to a minimum and it allows me the opportunity to complete tasks without interruption and to prepare for the coming week.
As before, I’m still working to a fairly regular routine, and have found that there are no aspects of my role that can’t be done remotely, and I know I’m very lucky to be in a such a position. I’m still maintaining my exercise routine, with the addition of swimming now that gyms and pools have reopened (although I did dabble in wild swimming while they were closed). In my earlier blog, I voiced that my main concern about working from home was missing people and I would say that to a certain extent, that’s still true. I say to a certain extent because although I still miss the face to face interactions with my colleagues, I’m finding that our regular catch ups via Zoom have helped us to maintain open and healthy communications with one and other. Our approach to this has worked so well for us that we have shared it with colleagues across the University via our Effective Remote Working training which has been well received.
There is a lot to be said for meeting in person, as non-verbal communication such as body language is much easier to read. That said, I think that because we’ve been using video calls over such a long period of time we’ve adapted to it fairly quickly. As a team, we have become adept at noticing differences in each other’s demeanours, even over a video call. This has helped us to maintain the pastoral side of our teamwork, looking out for one and other and reaching out when we suspect a colleague may need a little help, or perhaps just someone to talk to.
I do miss the general chat that we have from day to day in the office but there are certainly some ways to combat the loss of that. Skype messenger is handy to check if any of my colleagues are available for a quick chat should I be feeling the need, or if I have a quick work issue I need help with. In fact, every now and then if our diaries are clear, Graeme, Lillie and I take a 20 minute break and play BBC Radio 2’s Popmaster quiz. We’re all rubbish at it but it gives us that feeling of all being together and having a laugh. I think it’s really important to be able to have a bit of fun with your colleagues, it can bring you together and cement your working relationships. Lillie joined the team during lockdown and has never actually physically worked with us in person, so things like this have been essential for us all to get to know her. You can read about her experience here.
Prior to the pandemic, it had never really occurred to me that working from home was an option. Now that I’ve been doing it for so long, I’m finding that for me, the pros outweigh the cons. I think in many ways it has enhanced my work/life balance. I no longer have a 2.5 hour round trip commute, so that time is put to better use at home, without feeling as exhausted as I used to after my journey home. I can still communicate with my colleagues, and others from the wider University community in an effective way and can carry out my role as before. That said, I look forward to returning to campus, but perhaps in the future in a more agile way that is beneficial to both me, my team, and my university.