Working from Home: the new normal

Just a few weeks ago, working life was relatively predictable – a schedule organised around a whole host of typical daily tasks. That security was taken away on March 23rd following the Government’s announcement that we should work from home wherever possible. We are not alone in being thrown into a period of uncertainty – how would we keep in touch with colleagues, how could we deliver training, what would happen to all the training courses that had already been planned? But also, the ‘imagine what I can get done’ without the busyness of being on campus. Here, we bring together the experiences of two staff working in Professional Development under three key areas:

  • Teams meetings
  • Dealing with different well-being needs
  • Working flexibly.

We imagine these areas will be reflective of experiences of most staff.

With the sudden move to working from home, it felt disjointed. Teams fast became the new normal of communication, not only for online delivery, but importantly, for keeping in touch with colleagues missed more quickly than anticipated! A plethora of Teams meetings, which seemed to meet the needs of all, became scheduled. The:

  • “What are we doing?” meeting
  • “How do we do that?” meeting
  • “Are we agreed?” meeting
  • “Let’s stay connected” meeting
  • “Are you OK?” meeting
  • “Shall we have some fun?” meeting

No-one grumbled (at first) – it was good to remain connected.

Online training has seen a dramatic increase, and we apologise for any early mistakes made as we sought to bring a robust pedagogic approach to our delivery. This doesn’t seem to be putting people off – the Central Short Courses programme saw 600 staff visits on Saturday 18th April. We have responded to this interest by developing a list of courses with the very catchy title of Current Courses available via (MS) TEAMS.This programme is gradually expanding as the PD team continue to develop their provision online. The courses are avaliable here.

Staying in contact with the team via Teams has been illuminating. For those whose natural disposition is towards social distancing even without a lockdown, the demand of Teams meetings could have been a source of frustration. But, they have served as a reminder that we are all part of the University Of Nottingham community and the cohesiveness, support and collegiality that has surfaced as a result of such unprecedented times, has demonstrated how caring, resilient and determined we are. Meetings haven’t just been about work – we have asked about each other and our wider families – doing the human stuff that can sometimes get missed in the busyness of work. We have to confess, we have also played with the backgrounds and we’re sure it doesn’t take much imagination to work out what happened there!

Aside from the disruption to daily work life, it has been a challenge to work in the home environment where there are multiple distractions. We hear stories of those who are supporting young people who have had their education disrupted and are not sure what will happen to their futures, others have concerns about elderly parents they are not able to visit and of course there is the kitchen, which houses a host of edibles usually ignored! The new normal means juggling work life and the emotional turmoil of those around us in addition to recognising our own thoughts and feelings in this. This has led to a much more flexible way of working that before lockdown would have seemed inconceivable.

The working from home normal means different things to the whole team. Making it work depends on home life. For some, it has been refreshing to organise the working day flexibly, ensuring that work and family demands are met. It turns out that working practices can indeed be malleable and taking ownership of how work will be done means survival – we can get through this because we are being supported from the University. What this means in practice, is we can choose where to work (lounge, office, garden, kitchen), we decide whether we work in work clothes, scruffy clothes or indeed pyjamas, we choose the hours that suit our context. These choices reflect the physical and mental adjustments we are making to remain healthy and motivated. Importantly, this is done guilt free. There is no imperative to answer emails within a short period of time to demonstrate ‘presence’, there is now no continuous flurry of Teams meetings – we are trusted to act professionally and take ownership of our work. In the new normal, it would appear that everyone is being kinder and community orientated.

As we continue to proceed with this new normal, there may be reservations and concerns of what comes next. What happens when we’re back on campus – will the community spirit that has supported us through these turbulent times survive? We sincerely hope so. Perhaps this is the time when we can reflect on this and ensure we don’t lose this sense of community, autonomy, drive and determination to do things differently when we are able to return to campus!

This week’s EDI blog is written by Dr Tina Byrom, with David Burns, from the Professional Development team. Tina also leads our Mental Health First Aider programme

1 May 2020

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Trent Building
University Park Campus