Timing is everything for family man Simon

How do you set up your working day when you’ve got a four year old and a baby in the next room? For Fire Management Officer Simon Wicks the secret to successfully working from home is timing, and the best part is having more time to spend with his family.

Fire Management Officer Simon Wicks

1. Describe your work from home set up?

I have a study just off the lounge room, although it sometimes doubles as a playroom as my four year old son’s toys seem to find their way in here. My partner and I also have a baby daughter who’s now five months old. So I am definitely sharing my workspace.

My partner Leah Kyriacou also works for DEW but she is currently on maternity leave. She helps keep the kids occupied and ensures that I have quiet times throughout the day, particularly during Teams meetings.

When I’ve worked from home previously I’ve always used my personal computer, but I brought my work computer home when I started working from home full-time. It’s been great having access to the same applications and capacity that I had in the office, but that’s not the only benefit. I’ve set it up on a separate desk away from my own computer and having a desk solely dedicated to work really helps me to focus. 

2. How have you managed the transition from working in the office to working at home?

For me it’s been really easy to make the transition because I had eight weeks of parental leave when my daughter was born and then I was only back in the office for a couple of weeks before we all started working from home.

I’ve worked one day a week from home for a number of years so having to work from home didn’t faze me at all. The only adjustment was that I was back at home full time – just like I was when I was on parental leave – but I had to shift into work mode.

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

When I work from home, for me the focus has been on achieving outcomes but that’s pretty much the way that I’ve always worked. What I love is the flexibility that I now have and while it works really well for my family life, it also works well for my work. I’ll break my day into several chunks of working time, and I try and match the type of work I do with the level of concentration necessary.

So for instance, I log on early in the morning for a couple of hours of solid, uninterrupted work. At other times during the day when I’m more likely to be interrupted, I’ll tend to emails, do data entry work and other small tasks. I get several blocks of time throughout the day and while it’s been a work in progress to really make the most of them, I think I’ve now got the mix right.

The short breaks I take during the day when I take my son to the playground or take him for a bike ride around the block, really benefit my work. Often in the back of my mind I’ll be thinking about a problem that I’m trying to solve. Taking a break helps me figure out how to approach it, so when I get back to my desk I’m really productive, much more so than when I was in the office and sitting at my desk for that same period of time.

And when I’m away from my desk, I’m always contactable, probably more so than I am in the office. I receive notifications from emails and Teams chats on my phone, which I respond to as soon as I receive them.

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

I’ve missed grabbing a bite to eat at lunch time and seeing my workmates, who are also my friends, and I miss the topical debates that ensue. These discussions often start or result in a work related discussion. I miss hearing what others have been up to and any challenges or wins they have encountered. 

At times I have felt a bit disconnected from my colleagues but recently I’ve started using Teams Chat a lot more and that’s really helped with staying in contact and also getting a more immediate response to a query.

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

Achieving work life balance. The flexibility is fantastic and it’s something that I really value and appreciate. My priority is my family and to be able to work fulltime without having to compromise on the time that I spend with my family, particularly now that we have a baby, has been great.

After my son was born four years ago I did reduce my working hours to four days a week to ensure that I was present as a father. I’ve always really valued how DEW and my managers have supported me.

However, what I’ve found during COVID-19 is that I’ve been able to be there for my family while still working full time. Taking out the commute and having flexible working hours has made all the difference.

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

When you have a baby you can get caught up in the day to day but no doubt in years to come I will look back on it and think that it was really special that I did get this extra time to spend with her. I’m a very hands on dad, but having this extra time to see how she’s changing close up, day in day out, has been great.

Professionally this experience has really made me question, ‘What does a successful day at work look like?’ and for me it’s achieving outcomes and targets. I know you can’t do that every day but it’s what I work towards.

What I do know is that it doesn’t have to involve sitting at your desk for seven and a half hours straight each day. That’s something that I will take into the rest of my working life as my family is my number one priority. Plus I have heaps of hobbies and I want to have time for them. So I have absolutely loved the flexibility of working from home and I hope a lot of what the business has learned will be applied after all of this is over.