Melanie feels at home back in the office

Working from home has seen Water Licensing Assessment and Compliance Officer Melanie Smith develop confidence and self-belief in her professional capabilities – but she’s been glad to return to the office.

1. Describe your work from home set up? 

For the three months I was ‘working from home’ I was working from my partner’s house, as my sister had just returned from America and was self-isolating at my home. As part of my job I need to access a lot of mapping applications like ArcGIS, and my partner doubted that my home internet would cope, so I moved in with him temporarily. I live in Paradise which can be a bit of a dead zone.

I basically recreated my work set up in my partner’s games room, as I packed up everything on my desk, from both screens right down to all of my pens and folders. I felt that if I had everything from work with me there then I could treat it like I was going to work every day. As I work in Murray Bridge it was also better to have everything with me rather than having to make the trip back there to pick it up.


2. How did you manage the transition from working in the office to working at home? 

I didn’t find the transition to working from home that difficult as I am based at Murray Bridge, but I work from the Adelaide office as well. I only work with one other Assessment and Compliance Officer in Murray Bridge, as our main office is in Berri.

As I’ve only been in the role a year and am still learning the main thing I had to factor in was getting answers to all of my questions. I couldn’t just swivel around in my chair and ask my colleague Matt like I would in the office. I had to be much more strategic about getting information, particularly as some of my team are working different hours now that they’re at home.

To resolve this, my manager who’s based in the Berri office regularly updated a whiteboard which mapped out who was working from home and their hours, and she would send a photo of it to me each week.

It helped me to plan my day and decide when and how I could contact my colleagues.


3. Has working from home changed the way you work? 

Definitely. The main change has been my approach in how I work with my colleagues and how I structure my work. 

Before COVID-19 I relied a lot on getting directions about what to do next, but now it’s become more collaborative and I’m asking ‘What’s in store for us? What are we expecting?’ which then becomes a discussion about the direction we want to head in, or the tasks that we need to get done in order to do the next thing. There’s a lot more talking and planning going on, which is great because I’m a planner anyway, so I like to know what I’m going to be doing next.


4. What have you missed about working in the office?

I missed the people which is part of the reason I came back to the office at the start of this month. I also like driving home because I can put on a podcast and relax after a day at work. Not having that transition time when I was working from home was disconcerting, because even though I had clocked off, sometimes I was still a bit stressed after a busy day. 

I’m still learning different aspects of the job, so when I had a question about how to do something on the system, especially ArcGIS, it was difficult to have things explained over the phone or on Teams as I prefer to see things as people are showing me. This is another reason I’m now back in the office. 

Another thing I missed was having greenery around me as I worked, as the office has lots of plants whereas at home I didn’t have any, so I actually ended up getting myself a couple of little plants for the office. 


5. What have been the upsides of working from home?

From a day-to-day point of view, personally for me there weren’t many benefits, however I really enjoyed working a little bit later as I found I was really productive between 4pm and 5.30pm, and it meant getting an extra task done that I didn’t have to worry about the next day.

Wearing ugg boots instead of work shoes was also a plus and having my partner’s dog Bella coming in for pats also brightened up my days. 


6. What will you take away from this whole experience – professionally and personally?

I think in a professional sense I’ve grown a lot. I know that I can do something and that I can trust myself to make the right call. I’ve learnt to be more confident in myself. 

I have also become closer to some of my colleagues because when we spoke on the phone we would also have an extra little chat about our lives outside of work. It made me realise how much I like the people I work with and how much I enjoy my work.