Working from home — LIVE BLOG
As I am working from home due to my daughter having a cough, I thought I’d use this space to live blog some of my thoughts and experiences working from home, in the hope it might be useful for others. (There will be typos!|)
Context: I am an academic services librarian for psychology at the University of East London, a job that is heavy on 1–2–1 appointments, mostly conducted face-to-face.
Monday 16th March 2020
I’m off work due to my daughter being ill, so will be working from home for the foreseeable.
9am — phoned my line manager to inform them and discuss working from home.
Since that phonecall, I have been working through emails dealing with requests for books, ebooks, and help with literature searching. This has taken up a significant chunk of my morning.
As we use Microsoft 365 at work, I’ve also started documenting how I use Teams to support others should others need to work from home as things develop. Some colleagues are understandably anxious so I’m trying to use my time to support them and hopefully make things easier. We’ve also set up a group chat for our Team in Teams (I feel like that word will be used a lot here!!), so we can communicte effectively.
It’s now 1147 and I’ve not yet had a tea break. Conscious it’s very easy to get bogged down and not step away for a bit. I am going to step away for a bit and rest my eyes. Breaks are going to be important. We forget that we have little breaks throughout the day in the office, whether that be for tea or just to talk to a colleague. Important to get into the habit, even when working home alone.
Trying to ensure the little one keeps hydrated whilst working on the laptop by periodically reminding her to drink her drink. She’s happy enough watching TV but she needs attention too. Trying to get a five year old to take on plenty of fluids isn’t as easy as you’d hope it would be!
Slight stress as the school we applied to for our eldest phones to say they haven’t received confirmation we’re accepting the place. I guess a plate had to drop somewhere. But I verbally confirmed so should be fine. Now back to spinning those other plates.
May only just have had a tea break (and zero time away from the screen!!), but it’s 1234 so I guess we need to sort out lunch. Which will undoubtedly consist of tinned soup and toast.
Lunch – figured I’d experiment. Frozen leftover hot dog sausages with pasta, garlic, tomato, olive oil, parsley, basil and a fried egg. Seemed ok. Hopefully won’t make me or the little one ill later…
Quick spot of FIFA (lost 2–0 and had two sent off) then back to it.
Emailed key contact in the School to let them know I am working from home. Asked to circulate that I am available for remote help, and can do 1–2–1s over Teams, emphasising the need to email me first to arrange and only between 9–5 Monday to Friday. I’m concerned that it will be difficult to manage if boundaries aren’t established early on.
Have taken to having two browsers open: one for work, one for personal. Flicking between the two for little breaks and fun things to keep me going.
Also opened a window even though it’s still only March, because it gets very stuffy and the lack of fresh air is making it difficult to concentrate. Weird watching butterflies fly past and hearing birds sing when you are aware of what’s going on nationally. Lucky old butterflies!
When emptying and refilling the dishwasher becomes a task to break from the monotony of the screen. Who’d have thought I’d be eager to do that.
Having issues with Teams which is a bit of a concern as it will increasingly be relied on as people work from home. One minute the web browser version works and the desktop version doesn’t, the next it’s the opposite. Trying to maintain a service remotely will be difficult if Microsoft’s gear can’t cope with the additional workload being conducted on it. Communications with colleagues could be difficult if that starts to teeter, which will make other channels even more important.
Just watched Johnson’s press conference…all sounds like it’s getting worse quick, with London ahead of the rest of the country. No sign of school closures yet, but advising people to work from home where possible. I’m trying to keep out of the public discussion about the virus for fear it appears to be a reflection of my wife’s professional opinion, so I’m keeping my thoughts to myself in terms of the specifics. I also remain concerned about the impact of my wife’s job…hoping that no-one enters the pharmacy with the symptoms. No matter the guidance, there’s no accounting for individuals doing something they shouldn’t.
And that’s day one of working from home. I need a rest. It’s been quite full on but hopefully some things will get easier as I settle into a pattern.
Tuesday 17th March
Last night was largely spent messaging friends and checking in on them to see how they are doing. It was a reminder how fortunate I am. I have friends working on the boats, in retail and other forms of precarious employment (or none). In all cases there is a fear of what is coming, not just in terms of the virus, but in terms of their jobs. I’m trying my best to keep in touch with them and make sure they are ok.
We also phoned my dad (in his eighties) to check he is ok, and follow up on preparations my niece had already started making to ensure he is ok (like picking up his food shopping for example). He lives alone in a small flat and relies so heavily on being able to go outside and go for a walk to get some fresh air. Confinement will be a heavy blow. Frustrating though the conversation was, I hope he understands the severity of the situation, he certainly appears to more so than others he meets. Tales of other retired folk claiming it’s a “fuss over nothing” is exceptionally infuriating and distressing. Needless to say, the advice was very much a “stay away from those people as much as you can”.
Then there’s my wife…as a pharmacist she is dealing with all sorts at the moment. Giving vaccines for pneumonia to people and dealing with people who go into the pharmacy with all sorts, seeking medical advice. My greatest fear is the person who disregards official advice and goes into the pharmacy.
The group that I most concerned about right now are the retail workers and cleaners. Both groups are in highly precarious employment, with few rights and increased pressures placed upon them. How do we as a society deal with protecting them and ensuring that we are all able to eat and take care of ourselves? I don’t know. But there is no doubt that they are in an incredibly difficult situation. It won’t happen, of course, but I hope the aftermath of this makes us all reflect on how the low-paid are treated, how we treat them and how employers and the government treat them, and demand better.
Student with a book recall wondering how to get the book back to us. Have passed on to campus manager for guidance.
0940 — Testing out using Teams for video chat, particularly screen-sharing and recording for 1–2–1s. Seems you need to set up a meeting with someone to be able to record it. Not sure what happens with the recording at present, but apparently takes a while to process. Hopefully it’ll store it so the user can refer back to it.
0945 — was concerned about the lack of an inhaler in the house (I have a mild case and my old one had expired and I’d not got round to getting a new one), particularly given the fact the impact on the chest. Fortunately the surgery have processed my repeat request and I have a new one ready to collect. I must take better care of my asthma!!
1000 — breakfast. My routine is all over the place already.
1015 — setting up mechanisms for the social media team to communicate and share. The social media channels are going to be increasingly important as staff and students work remotely.
1100 — shifted to working upstairs, opened the window to get some fresh air. Mainly looking around and thinking I really need to do some cleaning in here.
1130 — set up a Teams group chat for the social media team. Communications over social media is going to be increasingly important, so trying to co-ordinate to ensure the right messages go out to staff and students.
1236 — really need a drink and a Jaffa cake…
Tinned soup for lunch — mega exciting. Mulligatawny and toast. I fancy a lot of soup and toast will be eaten. With the odd bit of pasta for variety. Hmm. lovely.
One thing I was reflecting on over lunch was the time I spent last night and during lunch today getting posts taken down in the local Facebook group. You know, stuff like “iT’s A gOvErNmEnT PlOt” or “here’s a handy meme that’s clearly fake but claims to offer advice to stop the spread”. I think we cannot underestimate the importance of fire-fighting that crap. I see it as something of a major public service at the moment. Misinformation will literally kill.
Spent most of the day setting things up for the social media team to manage things effectively as we shift to online provision. Set up the mechanisms earlier today and clarified a few things so just got to keep on top of things and ensure that we communicate effectively using these channels.
Set up a Whatsapp group with some fellow library workers to keep our spirits up whilst all this is going on. Felt the need for a space for lighthearted fun so we don’t have to log in to social media to reach out and then be faced with all the horrors.
First big cock-up…turned up for an online meeting 24hrs too early. So that was fun. And not at all embarrassing to then post a message asking if the meeting has started. Great, so despite everything I’ve been doing the past two days, I look like the absolute novice. Huzzah!
Wednesday 18th March
Well, we’re not in lockdown but I’m now home with both the children. So will be needing to set homework and tasks for the eldest at least whilst I am also working from home.
Received a phonecall this morning for our boiler service. Initially thought “great, this will make life easier, no need to pick a day when one of us is off”. Then (after cleaning the kitchen in preparation no less) decided against it. I’m sure they are taking all the precautions around hygiene etc, no doubt about that, but given the virus is contagious before the symptoms emerge, I’d prefer not to have people enter the house and particularly those who are going door to door. Maybe over-the-top, but think sensible precautions are necessary.
0950 — OneDrive isn’t working which isn’t helpful.
OneDrive finally got up and running again. Started collating a list of resources of things students can access that are freely available during this period, as well as information about our existing subs. Put this information in a Word doc and shared with colleagues so they can share with their Schools.
Continuing to adapt the social media posts on reliable sources of information. Hopefully will get that done and posted later today.
Phoned my dad this morning to give him a heads up about Iceland. I phoned to check with the store, yes to over 70s between 9–11. Dad phones later: all sorts of people were in there after all. He got some supplies but not sure the Iceland thing is anything other than an attempt at good PR (what a surprise).
Checked in with my niece to make she’s ok and let her know about dad’s situation.
Dealt with a few emails from students who are concerned about returning their books. Advised not to worry, we’ll deal with it later and forget about the fines. Worrying when you hear from students who are isolating themselves. Need to remember to step away and do something nice from time to time too.
Made lunch. Youngest wasn’t keen on it, I thought it was ok (potato rosti, fried egg and beans). Oh well. She ate most of it so that’s good enough for me.
Got a meeting online this afternoon so will see how that goes.
Lots of stuff on Facebook this morning about critical posts about the government’s actions regarding the virus being removed. Turns out loads of posts have, virus related or otherwise. Trying to get people to believe that it was a bug rather than a conspiracy was…not easy. Once something sticks, it’s hard to get people to change their views.
Online meeting went ok. Things worked we got through stuff despite some technical hitches. Hopefully these meetings will continue in that way.
Thursday 19th March
Tiring night. Had every intention of doing “fun things” (and treating myself to a Pot Noodle…), couldn’t be arsed in the end. Slept ok but then keep forgetting to change my alarm because I don’t need to be up at 0615am anymore.
Keeping up with other people. Have a friendly fun librarian Whatsapp chat group, and a Whatsapp group with some fellow local commuters. Finding that chatting with others really helps keep things under control.
That said, this morning was checking in on some friends in precarious employment. Doing what I can to help and support them, it’s really stressful for them. One is a single mum, the other has a husband away and is trying to manage the household alone. Both are incredibly stressed and anxious about food, sick pay, school closures…I’m just helping them out by trying to connect them with what’s available to them, in terms of food deliveries from independents etc (supermarket deliveries are taking too long). Trying to help and be a good friend, not least because one in particular helped me greatly through a very difficult time 15 years ago. I need to remember to look after myself too though.
10am — Updating Teams document about using it for online meetings. Information about how to add use chat in online meetings.
11am — sharing doc on freely available resources that was put together by Jane Secker et al: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hDboeabRp1Kh3d8zLskACymyR2EM4psxq0Rd0xN05tU/edit#
Think I’m due a tea break…
Sat down away from the screen for a bit and did some reading. Had recently picked up a copy of Surge by Jay Bernard, so figured I’d start dipping into it. Wonderful poetry. Got me pondering a lot of things…weirdly including cataloguing in libraries/archives.
…and a lunch break. Probably too much rice. But it was tasty. Of course I chucked in some chili for extra oomph.
1315 — good news. Although really this shouldn’t be something considered as “good news” or even “news”, it should be just a standard thing… my friend found out she will be receiving pay whilst she’s isolating with her daughter for 14 days. It’s shit that that is something that needs confirming, but it’s good that she has one less thing to worry about.
After lunch I replied to the CPD25 working group regarding our upcoming meeting…obviously won’t be taking place face-to-face.
Dropped a line to my task group to make sure everyone is ok and suggested we all make sure we keep in touch whilst this goes on. I’ll commit to periodically sending emails to check in. Obviously don’t want to bombard people so will space it out.
Also emailed one former CPD25 member who left just over a year ago due to the need to undergo cancer treatment. Figured I should check in on them too.
Also emailed my fellow conference organisers from the decolonising the curriculum — the library’s role event, just to make sure they are ok too.
Also, my workspace is going to pot…
And the kitchen…
Everyone I’ve checked in on is good. Committed to keeping in regular contact and updating everyone on what’s going on as things develop.
Post-work, had a group family facetime chat with my niece and her husband and kids. Was great for our kids as they had been desperately wanting to see their second cousins…I’m guessing this is what family meet-ups will be like for a while. Weird, but at least we all have the tech to make face-to-face meet ups happen.
Weirdly got a hankering for an online facetime type beer and chat meet-up with friends, particularly as I now can’t meet up with friends for drinks (I was due to arrange some beers with a local colleague but that’s out of the window now!). In the meantime, I’ll make do with beer, crisps and FIFA 2020. (Although maybe tonight I’ll throw in a movie too…)
Monday 23rd March
Tricky day. Working from home and trying to maintain the kids’ schooling. It’s going to be tricky to try to balance both and give myself breaks and step away here and there. I failed this morning but will try to do so for the rest of the week.
Lunch (homemade bread and tinned soup):
This morning we had a team meeting. There have been growing numbers of emails from students and I did my first 1–2–1 over Teams via webcam. So far all is working fine!
Tuesday 24th March — Friday 27th March
This week I’ve mainly been concentrating on producing video content for staff and students. Working at home has made this much easier. I have all the equipment I need (well, apart from a microphone) — MacBook Pro with iMovie, tripods, iphone clamp for tripod and…children to assist!
I’ve put together two videos this week: one on the online resources available for staff and students to access, one on five top tips for literature searching. With the first I had a helping hand from our eldest, doing her bit as a film director (practical home schooling FTW).
It’s been a good opportunity for me too. For a while I’ve been wanting to play around more with creating video (on a personal level rather than for work), and this has given me the opportunity to do so. I’ve started to play around more with iMovie and learn how it works, to the extent it’s slightly less frustrating than it was when I first started out using it. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I hope at least by the end of this (whenever that might be), I’ll at least have learnt some new skills that I can put into practice at home and at work.
I continue to try to maintain regular breaks, manage the kids schooling, do lunches and ensure the house is kept in a reasonable state, as well as trying to manage things online, but of course it’s not easy and I find myself shattered every night. I’m also finding it hard not being able to go out and take photos. I want to, it’s been crucial in managing my wellbeing over the past few years, but I just can’t at present with the restrictions (I guess I could go for a long walk with my camera, but I’m very much of a mind to stay indoors as much as possible). It’s put a photo project I was working on out the window, so I may have to adapt that slightly, but maybe there’s scope to pick up on that later in the year. Let’s hope so.