For Flood Management Team Manager, Ingrid Franssen, working from home has given her time. Time to reassess her management style, connect with her partner and teenage daughters, and take some of her favourite walks at Black Hill and Linear Park.
1. Describe your work from home set up?
I work in the spare room, which is an office but it’s also the store room for everything that doesn’t go anywhere else. It’s become a dedicated room for my work. Thankfully, I was allowed to bring home my adjustable desk from work which has made a big difference for my back. On my desk I have a large monitor and a laptop set up at eye level.
My partner is also working from home and he’s got a desk next to the dining room table so he gets disturbed more than I do.
I have two teenage daughters and in April all four of us were at home together and it actually went really well. When my daughters were home schooling they were so focused. I would be the one knocking on their door saying: ‘Hey, how are you going?’ and they would say, ‘Mum, you’re disturbing me, go away’.
2. How have you managed the transition from working in the office to working at home?
Managing a team online can be a challenge. For instance it was a challenge farewelling one of my staff members when she went on maternity leave and then interviewing candidates to backfill her while we were all working from home.
To introduce that new person into the team, we’ve been having more online catch-ups and team lunches over the video. I hope we’ve done a reasonable job. I’m amazed that she’s actually coped so well.
A really good thing that’s happened is that I’m catching up weekly for a walk along Linear Park with a colleague who lives in the next suburb. She manages a team, I manage a team, so we have a fresh air lunchbreak and a bit of a co-mentoring session at the same time.
3. Has working from home changed the way you work?
I’m consciously taking a longer lunchbreak so the hours I work are probably a bit different. When it’s a sunny day, I go to Black Hill or Linear Park for my lunchbreak and that really works because it makes my afternoons more productive. If I’ve taken a bit of fresh air and stretched my legs, I’m far less tired in the afternoon, and I get a lot more done than I would if I was still in the office.
4. What have you missed about working in the office?
The warmth! Particularly in the morning. I’ve had to get out all my thick winter sweaters and thermals. Probably when go back into the office I will think it’s too warm there because I’m no longer used to it.
I’ve missed the informal chats in the office kitchen with people who work in completely different areas which lead to me finding out really useful pieces of information.
And just having the team together for a cuppa or a lunch, particularly when you want to say goodbye to a colleague who’s going on maternity leave or bring a new person into the team or celebrate a major milestone, it’s different.
5. What have been the upsides of working from home?
Online can make training and conferences more cost effective and therefore more accessible. We recently had a national conference that the whole team did online. The conference would have been located on the Gold Coast so I would have probably only sent one or maybe two people there but because it was online we got ten logins for $300 which made it much more accessible for the whole team to attend.
I would like to continue working from home at least one or two days a week because I think that there are some real benefits. I’d prefer it to be on days that my partner is working from home because we enjoy bouncing ideas off each other about work and can have a lunchtime walk.
6. What will you take away from this whole experience – professionally and personally?
Personally, it is making quality time with the family a priority. The weeks when all four of us were home were really nice. We were having dinners together every night – oh my God! That was weird – it just never happens. So we have been reflecting on, ‘What was good? What can we keep?’ My eldest daughter is learning how to drive so we would get up early and go for a drive to the beach or hills and go for a walk, and I think we would both like to continue to do that because it’s just been really nice.
In April I was meant to go to the Netherlands for six weeks to visit all the family and my kids were really looking forward to playing board games with their aunties like they have on previous trips. So we’ve learnt to do online board games with my sisters. On a Saturday night we put everyone behind a laptop and we play board games online. We weren’t doing this before and it’s as if we were actually together.
Professionally it’s made me much more conscious about how to manage a team, drive team communication and keep a team motivated. That’s generally something you need to be doing as a manager anyway but having to do it in this really weird circumstance has been challenging, but it has created lots of learning opportunities. I really appreciate how the Office of the Public Sector opened up a heap of training and resources to help manage a team in this situation, but in fact it actually helps teach you about being a better manager full stop. So it’s been an opportunity for me to reflect on my management and leadership style, ask myself how robust it is and consider what I can do better. That’s probably the professional growth opportunity that’s come out of it. I won’t say that I’ve got full marks for what I’ve tried to do but I’ve definitely learnt from it.