By Martin Gibson, Student Support and Admissions Administrator
After being part of the working population for around 35 years, for the first time ever, I am having to work from home. These are my thoughts so far.
Having been issued with a laptop and training for logging in from home etc. (not as straight forward as you might think) by Colin, the college IT expert, and transferring my desk phone to my mobile I was all set to go on the morning of Friday 20th March… or so I thought. It took me about 2 hours to get fully logged in after several phone calls, emails and ‘team’ messages to Colin. This began my first ever day of working from home getting used to the laptop on the way.
Something which I have read to be important when working from home is to have regular breaks from sitting at the laptop.
The first thing I noticed is that it is very quiet in the house during the day, something I am just not used to. I have always worked in either a shared or an open plan office where there is always some kind of background noise or chit chat among colleagues and students. Though I can ignore the background conversations etc., I have always enjoyed it being there. I could put the radio or a CD on, I guess, and I may well do that in the days to come.
One very important thing I realised, after a day, is that I needed to carefully re-arrange my home ‘workstation’ (dining room table). Sitting on one of our old dining room chairs is just not as comfortable and supportive for my back as using a dedicated computer chair and after one day, I ended up with an aching back. With a bit of rearranging of furniture, I swapped chairs around and now our (much more comfortable) computer chair is next to the laptop, although it took a few days for my back ache to ease, but I suppose that is a sign of getting old.
One very important thing I realised, after a day, is that I needed to carefully re-arrange my home ‘workstation’ (dining room table).
With the wonders of technology, it is pretty easy to stay in contact with my colleagues and students through emails and the new (to me) system called Teams. We can have a team video conference and instant message the whole team with any questions or things for them to note.
I thought it best to have a regular routine for working from home. I am aiming to work my normal daily working hours of 8:00am to 4:00pm with a break in the middle somewhere for lunch. Straight after breakfast, at about 7:50, I switch on the laptop, brush my teeth, fill a cycling bottle with water and begin the daily battle to get logged in, which takes anything between 10 – 45 minutes, though I am getting the hang of it now and am normally fully logged in in about 20-25 minutes. I think the 10 minute login yesterday was the laptop giving me a false hope that this was going to start being the norm, no such luck today as it was back to 20-25 minutes.
Something which I have read to be important when working from home is to have regular breaks from sitting at the laptop. I try to give myself a break for 5 minutes every half to three quarters of an hour or so, even just popping out into the back garden to top up the bird feeder or refill the bird bath, just to do something which stretches my legs and back and gives me the opportunity to refocus my eyes. Unfortunately, I am often guilty of not noticing the time and end up having somewhat longer spells between these little breaks, but I guess we will all be guilty of this.
Towards the end of each day, I will start planning my work and priorities for the following day. I feel doing this is pretty important as it helps me hit the ground running the following day.
Once logged in, I get on with my initial tasks for the day, checking emails in the various team accounts, dealing with things which have come through since yesterday and checking and generating “Offer Letters” to potential new students to Durham University and St John’s College.
After that, Becca (the Acting Senior Tutor) and I will email each other to sort out anything I specifically need to look at during the day. It may be I need set up a spreadsheet or dedicated mailing list for something. Alongside any specific tasks, I also process any self certification forms which come through, keep various spreadsheets up to date, answer any enquiries from offer holders (consulting with colleagues where necessary) and keep online filing up to date.
Like most of us, I find it very difficult being confined indoors and I need my regular dose of exercise and fresh air, I think it is important to have these, both for your physical health and to make you feel better in yourself.
Towards the end of each day, I will start planning my work and priorities for the following day. I feel doing this is pretty important as it helps me hit the ground running the following day. Once 4:00pm arrives, I will finish off what I am doing, save everything and log out.
After that, I will go for a ride out on my bike for an hour or so for my daily exercise or perhaps a brisk walk with my wife (and possibly son) for three quarters of an hour, it is always nice to be out in the fresh air for a while, especially now that the lighter evenings and milder weather (wishful thinking) are here. Like most of us, I find it very difficult being confined indoors and I need my regular dose of exercise and fresh air, I think it is important to have these, both for your physical health and to make you feel better in yourself.
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