Juggling emails with the temptation to put on a load of washing, wrangling dodgy NBN connections and figuring the ins and outs of Zoom video conferencing.
Welcome to the brave new world of work. Where makeshift solo home offices have replaced the pods of ergonomically designed work stations. And casual chats around the coffee machine have given way to tuning into talkback radio to get some human interaction.
Working from home is a whole new way of operating for most of us who usually spend our weekdays in an office with dozens of other people to interact with.
With social isolation restrictions likely to remain in place for weeks, if not months, it is a way of life we’re all going to have to get used to.
There are some benefits, in theory at least.
I’ve suddenly got the best part of an extra hour at both ends of my day that I don’t have to spend on the road to the office. No peak hour traffic snarls in the trip from kitchen to dining table work area.
I know I should be using this time productively – maybe an hour of exercise time before I whip up a healthy breakfast -- but so far it just seems to mean an hour extra in bed in the morning, and usually longer behind the keyboard at the other end.
Days are spent with Fallon the golden retriever under my feet at the table and ABC radio on in the background to keep a small connection to the outside world, even if it is just prattling announcers and bland music between COVID-19 updates.
My colleagues report they are getting a lot more house cleaning done but they are also trying to keep it professional in their own ways.
Creating Communities research lead Gemma Bothe has imposed a rule to stay away from domestic chores during the day – no unpacking the dishwasher or doing the washing.
“I’m trying to treat the workday as if I am at the office,” she says.
Gemma’s one concession to these strange times is her Spotify isolation playlist to keep her entertained during the day. Not exactly music to take your mind off the crisis we are in, it includes tracks such as Hands Clean by Alanis Morissette, Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer, Dancing with Myself by The 12th Precinct, Work from Home by Fifth Harmony, and Contaminated by BANKS. Check it out here.
Getting into work mode at home can be a problem but graphic designer Melanie Billig has the opposite problem. “My computer is literally five steps from my bed. It’s too easy to check in at night and just do a bit more on something,” she says.
She and communications lead Jess Barker both lament that being home means far too easy access to a supply of treats, especially in the lead-up to Easter with hot-cross buns and chocolate eggs in the house.
Community development consultant Zoya Yukhnevich says working from her bedroom in a share house has forced changes in unexpected ways.
“I bought a sit/stand desk and have rearranged my room to fit it in,” she says. “The only way it can fit in my room is if I have it facing my wardrobe so now I always have to have my room tidy and bed made as the mirror on the robe reflects everything during my video conferences. Probably a good thing. Forcing me to be tidy!”
Andrew Watt, director of engagement, planning, education and planning, has his days filled with Zoom, MS Teams and Webex meetings with clients and colleagues. “To keep myself entertained I regularly change the background image on the video meetings to show the houses that I wish I had!” he says.
Andrew also has a new offsider at home to keep him in line: “I have my rescue dog Flynn to keep me company – he is like a deputy director.”
Senior engagement consultant Kim Wiltshire is surprised at how well she has adapted to working with video conferencing technology.
“I was uncertain how it would be trying to interact with teammates, clients and stakeholders via video conference, worried that those important non-verbal communication facial expressions and other gestures can sometimes be missed in this virtual way of viewing each other,” Kim says. “But I have been pleasantly surprised how effective video-conferencing has been to use and I am not missing these non-verbal cues at all.
“I’ve gone from being slightly suspicious about the role of technology in our life to being rather grateful for it.”
Lynden Prince, our social innovation lead, says she is busier than ever but is making sure she has time in her day for Skype story reading with her grandchildren, a walk with a friend after work and to catch up with her husband at the end of the day because though they are both working from home, “he is in his corner on Zoom and I am in mine”.
Community development officer Nicolle Versteeg is telling herself that working from home is like a holiday. “My housemate spends her days on the phone to her family in France or listening to news updates. Being surrounded by the French language all day makes me feel like I could be on holidays. Just minus the baguettes, cheese and aperitif, unfortunately.”
Finance administrator Nikki Hunt is appreciating the extra time she gets to spend with her partner and young daughter, including having three meals each day together. “I’m someone with relatively high anxiety, but the strange thing is being at home during a pandemic, I’m not anxious at all and calmer than usual!” she says.
Research officer Jasmin Korte says she is happy to slip back into a life of solitary work from home. “Cumulatively I’ve spent about 10 years at university, much of which required quiet, independent study from home. Having said that, it’s been a little tricky to get back into the swing of it,” she says.
“I think remote independent work requires a different schedule than office hours does; I tend to sit down and blitz through chunks of work, then take frequent small breaks. Even though I’m spending less time at the computer I think I actually have the capacity to get more done,” Jasmin says.
Our managing director Donna Shepherd, who is married to founding director Allan Tranter, offers some unique insights into living and working with a partner. “I realised that having my business partner at home in isolation is a different kettle of fish than working with him at work. We are blessed – we work well together – but at home in an apartment it can easily become a 24/7 work exercise – so we are deliberately taking time to just chill with each other – dinner, walk and a drink after work as we watch the sunset.”
This remote model of working is not ideal for us. In our trade, engagement at a personal level is central to everything we do, so to have that one-on-one interaction taken away may seem like a significant handicap. But in reality effective communication can happen in many ways if we keep an open mind and are agile in our approach.
Technology is our friend and we are taking advantage of it as we adapt and find new ways to ensure our work continues in communities across the State, and local people’s voices are still being heard in the issues that matter to them.
USEFUL WORK/LIFE TIPS FROM OUR TEAM
“ Try to adopt a new good habit each week (e.g. good eating, daily exercise, more reading instead of screen time). They say that if you do things routinely for seven weeks it becomes a habit so I’m trying to adopt a few new good habits that I’ve wanted to adopt for years without success! ”
“ I try to get out of my study every now and then and get a bit of sunshine. The most important thing is to keep a sense of humour and stay connected to family, friends and colleagues. ”
“ You have to recognise home productivity seems to adhere to a certain rhythm, generally of several very productive days then one or two where there’s very little motivation to get things done. ”
“ I shut my computer down at the end of the day to try and create a definite stop point and separation between work and personal life. ”
“ My best investment has been a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. ”