Remember when things were clear-cut and being at home meant that you weren’t at work? Even though Cleland Works Supervisor Glen Abbott was incredibly productive when he worked from home, he’s still a bit conflicted about the experience.
1. Describe your work from home set up?
I just used my work laptop and got Citrix on that. I was lucky the weather was pretty good so I was out the back under the pergola most of the time, it was magic.
I sit in the high risk category, being Aboriginal plus being an old fella with a bit of asthma, so I asked if it was alright for me to work at home and thankfully, it was.
I returned to working on park full-time just after the long weekend.
2. How did you manage the transition from working in the office and ‘on park’ to working at home?
While I worked from home the rest of my team continued doing maintenance and upkeep work at Cleland. I look after the team that does maintenance for parks in the Central Hills region so there’s a lot of liaison in my role, making plenty of phone calls every day with contractors, so I could easily do this part of my role from home.
I’d still come in after hours and have a look around or drop in on a Saturday just to see how the park looked and occasionally I would go onsite and meet contractors, or if there was a job that came in I’d jump in my car, go and check it out, so that I knew what was required when the particular team member I’d assigned the job actually got there to do it.
We have a system where works requests come through electronically and I also keep a hard copy record. The process pretty much stayed the same with me working from home – I would forward the works request email to the team member I wanted to complete the job and when it was finished I’d ring them up and make sure that it had been completed and then I’d close the request in the system, so the flow of work moved nicely.
3. Has the way you work changed since the onset of COVID-19?
One of the things I realised after a couple of weeks of working from home was that I was always calling one particular team member and getting him to relay my messages about particular jobs to the rest of the team. It was a legacy of the old team structure and it actually occurred to me that I shouldn’t be doing that. I just thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to take that pressure off him,’ because he’s doing everything he can to keep things rolling as well.
And even though the new team structure had been fully implemented, working from home made me realise that my communication processes needed to be more in line with the new structure. So I learnt to communicate with each team member directly on a more one-on-one level. So after a couple of weeks, I’d ring whoever I wanted to do something directly, and it has carried on since I’ve come back to work.
4. What did you miss about working in the office and on park?
The main thing I missed was the interaction with people. As you can imagine, with five of us working closely together there’s a fair bit of banter and jokes that go on so I did miss that side of things. We’re quite a close-knit team – they call us ‘Dad’s Army’ – we’ve all been around a long time.
5. What were the upsides of working flexibly and working from home?
It meant that I could get a lot of my admin done which sometimes is hard for me, because I tend to want to prioritise the field work, which results in days when I think, ‘I’ve got this to do down at the office but we’ve got this to do out in the field.’
While I was working from home I pumped out works programs for the next six months, which was really good. I still got all the phone calls, but I found that I was getting a lot of my admin done which was great.
I did feel guilty about working from home though. It’s a hard one to get your head around. When the rest of your team is out in the field and you’re not, particularly given that I’m their supervisor, you do worry about what they might think. However, I’m very lucky with the team I supervise because they took it all on board and got on with the job.
So, while I really enjoyed working from home, it got harder to not feel guilty about not being out in the field with the team. I’ve been with the department coming up 29 years, I’ve always worked with a team, and it was hard not being there with them. When COVID-19 was full on, I didn’t feel the guilt then, because I knew I had to look after myself, but as it calmed down that’s when I started thinking, ‘I need to be back there, I need to be back there’.
6. What will you take away from this whole experience – professionally and personally?
On a personal level it made me recognise that I have to take care of my health. I think the main thing to remember is that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away. I always have to keep my health in the back of my mind. I’m not a person who ever really gets sick but I am at high risk so I have to be careful.
I’m also really proud of what my team achieved throughout the lockdown period, they put in a huge effort over that time. I’d say that the visitation of parks went up 50 per cent. More numbers means more rubbish, more toilets to clean, more everything. It makes me proud that the team did such a good job and kept it up to such a high standard. I’m always proud of what our team achieves, but it was especially the case during COVID-19.
Part of me would like the option of working from home some of the time, but I don’t know if it sits comfortably with me. It would be good to get my admin out of the way at the beginning of the week, say on a Monday and a Tuesday, so I could think, ‘All my paperwork is out the way, now let’s get in there and do the jobs out in the field that we need to do.’ And it’s easier to do the admin from home, I’ve got to admit that, but I don’t know yet if it is something I would like to do on an ongoing basis.