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Reflections on homeworking during coronavirus

AUTHORS: VARIOUS STAFF AT NALC


Like so many organisations, NALC moved quickly to homeworking for all staff due to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, as part of NALC's business continuity planning most staff began working from home prior to the government advice to stop unnecessary travel and to work from home where possible. NALC staff reflect on the last few months, swapping the NALC office to their home office.

Jonathan Owen, chief executive

I’m from the old school and haven’t fully embraced homeworking in the past, except occasional days when I was working on a report or something that needed my limited brainpower. I’m becoming a convert! If anything I see more of my colleagues, with a daily catch up at 10.00 of our senior management team, a weekly meeting with all NALC’s 15 staff and weekly Zoom meetings with county officers. Here are my two tips: use BBC weather to identify the best time of day to have your exercise; and hot lemon, ginger and honey at midday!

Charlotte Eisenhart, head of member services

As a confirmed extravert, I take energy and enjoyment from engaging with other people. So, long term homeworking is something I would never ever voluntarily sign up for. My favourite part of my role at NALC is getting out and meeting councillors, clerks and county officers – which I really miss. In the early stages of the lockdown, I was kept busy ensuring our coronavirus guidance was kept up-to-date and communicated, and now that the flow of information is slowing I am increasingly able to focus on other work as well. I have found that I am more productive with a daily schedule and setting tasks for each day. I also try setting aside time for work with my emails off, to make sure I am balancing my time. But the challenge we are facing is not just how to work from home effectively, it is also how to cope with life in a global pandemic. Managing my own mental health and wellbeing has been hard and some days are better than others. Getting out of the house each day, my various hobbies and the support of my partner are vital to keeping me well. This situation is like nothing any of us have lived through before, I look forward to life slowly returning to some sense of normality and particularly to be able to spend time with people in person and not just on a screen!

Claire FitzGerald, administration manager

Working from home was initially a culture shock for me as I have rarely worked from home, so it took a bit of adjusting to being the new normal.  The first few days were filled with ensuring that NALC's IT systems were stable and I am proud of what we have achieved as a team. Slowly over time I developed a routine and a pattern to my working life and have found now that moving my home office from the bedroom to the living room, has clicked. Developing a routine is key for me, as well as being even closer to the kitchen for cups of tea. Being somebody who never sits still, I have found having an outlet for my energy is crucial so I have been using my allocated exercise time to the maximum by running and walking and have found pleasure in discovering small parks, woodland trails and deserted golf courses. Technology helps, we have Zoom meetings, WhatsApp groups so we can keep in touch with colleagues easily. The most important learning has been that despite this, you will have bad days and it is important to reach out and call a friend for a chat and moan. Tomorrow is better that way.

Justin Griggs, head of policy and communications

“WiFi is rubbish!” Not a phrase heard much a decade ago when I first started homeworking regularly after my son was born. But now a common war cry in the battle for bandwidth between me, three primary school-age children and my partner (a maths teacher at the local adult education college). This has been one of the biggest challenges of lockdown so far as we all videoconference both work and friends, browse the internet, watch online movies, game, and more – sometimes all at the same time. Use of technology is very much alive and well in the Griggs household. I’ve long held the view that work is an activity, not a place, with changes to the world of work and advances in technology meaning you can pretty much work from anywhere. But limited space has been another headache, so finding some ‘peace and quiet’ quite tricky. I have missed the human interaction with colleagues (and I’ll admit the extensive events and networking that comes with the territory) but numerous daily and weekly telecons and Zoom meetings have kept us all in touch; I’m really proud of we’ve adapted so quickly. My three survival tips would probably include finding things to smile and laugh about; fresh air and daily exercise; and tackling all those nagging jobs at home. Okay, maybe not the last one.

Jane Moore, legal services manager and senior solicitor

I haven’t been a regular homeworker before this. Luckily we had time to put processes in place before the shutdown so it wasn’t a total shock to the system. I initially found it hard to separate work from home and I wasn’t sticking to a working day pattern. I now have a defined workspace and more of a routine and I’m working on finding the right work/ home balance. I run as part of my normal commute and morning loops of the (not large) garden have replaced that. It gives me a chance to catch up with podcasts, often history ones. I have also been doing Joe Wicks PE workouts (they’re hard!) and Chi Gung exercise and I have found baking and cooking to be a good way of switching off. Daily calls with colleagues, Zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups mean we are all connected. I try not to watch too much-rolling news!

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