Working from home brings remote worker closer to team

Daniela Conesa loves Teams. And why not – it’s helped the Mount Gambier-based Water Security Policy and Planning Senior Policy Officer conquer the tyranny of distance and connect with her city-based colleagues.

Water Security Policy and Planning Senior Policy Officer Daniela Conesa

1. Describe your work from home set up?

I’ve occasionally had to work from home before and found it difficult not to become distracted by household obligations. So, I knew that it would be important to set up a neutral space where I would only do my work.

I’ve created a comfortable but neutral workspace in my daughter’s old bedroom, she’s at university, so nothing in there belongs to me. Most importantly it’s not my open plan lounge/dining room or my home office, so there’s no overlap with household distractions. I’ve also made sure that my workspace is set up ergonomically, which is important for everyone who is working from home but especially important for me as I have a back issue.

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

Being able to access the server remotely has made the transition really straightforward, as has the Teams technology. Teams has been particularly important as I am based in Mount Gambier and the rest of my team is in Adelaide. With Teams you can chat with a colleague, you can share a document and work on it together so it makes for a much easier conversation. 

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

I took the opportunity to undertake the Pomodoro Technique training that was offered soon after COVID-19 struck and it’s really worked for me. The technique breaks work into 25 minute blocks, separated by short breaks. When I take the five minute break I make sure that it doesn’t involve a screen or housework – instead I generally do some back exercises, including some stretches on the floor or go for a quick walk in the garden.

The Pomodoro Technique has helped me to focus and made it easy for me to incorporate my doctor’s instructions of getting up every thirty minutes and walking around for five minutes to stretch my back.

Working from home also enables me to be very flexible about my work hours. So when work is really busy I can extend the work day by starting early or working late, which lets me take nice long breaks. I might split the day into three periods of work and by doing this I also find I get a lot done.

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

Not much, and that’s possibly due to my unique situation of being regionally-based and working remotely from the rest of my team. Using Teams has also been great at helping to overcome that physical distance. Previously, to connect with my team in Adelaide I would drive to the city office once every three weeks. The weeks that I was here in Mt Gambier team meetings were really hard because I was just on the conference phone, since video conferencing facilities are often booked out.

Thanks to Teams I now feel that I miss out on very, very little and considering that I was working in an open plan office, I feel I actually benefit a little bit in that I have fewer distractions.

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

My productivity is as good as it was when I was working in the office full-time, and I’ve been able to cope better with surges in work because I have the option to extend my work hours over the course of the day. Following the Pomodoro Technique and structuring my day like this has been good for my back too, as it’s meant I’m sitting for shorter periods over a longer stretch of time.

Teams has put me on a similar footing with my city-based teammates. Everyone is home, everyone is joining in meetings through a screen, and this has actually made meetings much more inclusive from my perspective.

The new normal has also brought me closer to my team much faster than spending one week with my colleagues in Adelaide every three weeks, because we use Teams socially for social catch-ups and after work drinks. It’s so much easier for everyone to be available because you can just do it from home.

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

My husband and I are empty-nesters and prior to COVID-19 we had been leaving home a lot on weekends. However due to COVID-19 we’ve had to spend longer periods of time at home and it’s made me appreciate the things that I can do here, and realise how nice it is to be at home. Previously if I’d spent the whole day in the house, especially during the weekend I would have thought ‘I’ve done nothing, I’ve gone nowhere’ whereas now I’ve discovered those simple pleasures that come from spending time at home.

I would love to see Teams continue to be used in our workplace when COVID-19 ends. It’s been a real success story for me. In the future I think that I won’t need to go up to Adelaide as often as I used to in order to connect with my teammates.