For Glenthorne National Park-Ityamaiitpinna Yarta Senior Ranger Bec Brown being able to combine working from home with her on park commitments has made a real difference to her work life balance and wellbeing.
1. Describe your work from home set up?
I work from my kitchen table with a laptop. I do have a spare room with a desk but it’s an old desk that’s not ideal to use a computer on, so it’s just easier to use my kitchen table.
I worked from home in my previous career and I had dual screens but it’s not worth setting that up because I haven’t been working from home 100 per cent. This set up is easy to pack up and it means that I can be more mobile. I can take the laptop to wherever I’m working, whether it be Cleland or Glenthorne or home.
2. How have you managed the transition from working in the office and ‘on park’ to working at home?
For rangers it’s been quite a flexible arrangement combining park work and working from home. My role as the senior ranger for Glenthorne involves a lot of the project work which can be done from home. I’m also a Type 1 diabetic which put me in the high risk category for COVID-19 so from a personal health perspective I said, ‘I’m going to work from home as much as possible but I will still be able to fulfil my ranger role’. It’s just meant more planning and consciously scheduling in my fieldwork, but it’s worked well. So, it’s been quite a flexible arrangement between home, the office at Cleland and Glenthorne.
To keep the momentum going with our volunteers I send out a fortnightly email with updates on progress, whereas prior to COVID-19 I was filling them in on progress whenever I caught up with them at group activities. We also had to move some of our stakeholder engagement activities and meetings online for a while, but face-to-face engagement is making a return.
3. Has the way you work changed since the onset of COVID-19?
The Teams functionality is fantastic because having proper video conference meetings is a game changer for rangers. Now we can call into a meeting from out in the field and we can see people from our different offices, Belair, Cleland and Glenthorne. It means that we don’t have to spend half an hour driving to another office to sit in a meeting for an hour.
I haven’t had more emails during this time because I’ve always been someone who prefers to talk to a person face-to-face about what’s going on. I’ve adapted that to working from home by making phone calls or having a Teams meeting instead. That’s always been my approach – instead of letting something develop into a long email chain with six people involved and everyone’s going back and forth, I’ll actually ring and talk to those six people until I get the full story and then I sort it by sending out the one email.
If something is urgent it’s much better for us to call because email is not as immediate. That’s the thing for people who don’t work in the field, there is a bit of an expectation that when they send an email, they think you’re going to see it straight away. If I want something fairly quickly I’m not going to send an email. I’ll call that person because I know I’ll get a quicker response.
4. What have you missed about working in the office?
COVID-19 hasn’t taken me from my workplace – it’s just given me greater flexibility. When it first started I was working from home about 60-80 per cent of the time and now it’s down to 20 per cent of the time, with the rest of the time on park. However throughout the entire time I don’t feel that I’ve missed out on interactions with my colleagues because all of the rangers are really supportive and we have a really open culture where we can just pick up the phone and have a chat at any time.
Our workloads haven’t decreased at all, in fact numbers coming into parks have probably doubled, so we’ve had even more work and more pressure and that’s really highlighted the need to support each other.
5. What have been the upsides of working flexibly and working from home?
This period has shown that you can work from home and still do your job – it’s made flexible working arrangements more available to everyone. Wanting to have work life balance and look after your personal wellbeing has been made acceptable, which is awesome.
As rangers we have to work weekends, so at the moment I’m in the middle of working ten days in a row, so I’m working this weekend and I don’t get my day off until Thursday. Being able to work from home for one day means that I can feel like I’m having a little break from being in full work mode; it means I can chuck on a load of washing at the beginning of the day. Just those really little things that if you’re commuting to and from work every day you just don’t want to have to come home and do. But I can do that during the day without interrupting my work schedule. It just makes those ten days a bit easier.
Working from home also makes a huge difference when scheduling appointments. I know we’ve got flexible work arrangements but there’s a lot of appointments that you have to schedule during the day and it’s so much easier if I can just go to the appointment in the afternoon and then return home and keep working again, rather than having to go back into the office.
6. What will you take away from this whole experience – professionally and personally?
Just being able to work from home a little bit more, having that as an acceptable part of your working schedule. Even if it’s not a specific day, just to be able to say, ‘I’m going to work from home tomorrow’ and to be met with, ‘Yep, fine’ without having to have some big explanation. So that’s been a big thing.
I’ve always been grateful for the job that I’ve got but this has made me feel even more grateful for the fact that I still have a job that I love and that it is actually contributing to the wellbeing of people in society because they can come to parks and have something to enjoy during a hard time.