As the Business Integration Lead in the Water Management Solutions (WMS) Program Yvette Carlsson’s role is all about change. She sees COVID-19 as an opportunity to expand her tool kit and devise new ways of working.
1. Describe your work from home set up?
I had a desk in my open plan dining area but that was not going well, particularly at the beginning when I was working and looking after my two young children because of the disruptions with school and OSH care. My work involves a lot of meetings so moving to a video-meeting scenario and having kids running around in the background going, ‘Mum, mum’ wasn’t really working.
I was in the process of setting up my spare room as my sewing room but it’s now become ‘mummy’s work room’. I also used it as an excuse to give the room a new look so I made new curtains, hung pictures and sourced a chair cover. I stopped short of painting the room – but that’s not completely off the agenda.
I’m using an old TV as an extra monitor so now I’ve got two screens and I’ve moved the desk around a few times to work with the natural light.
2. How did you manage the transition from working in the office to working at home?
The first six weeks were hard because my children’s OSH care shut down. So that was challenging. It meant that my work day started at 7.30am in the morning with a break to do the school/kindy run, then I’d come back and continue working, then another break to pick them up, come back, and in between keeping them occupied I’d keep working until I needed to go and prepare dinner. There was no delineation between work and home. I was just constantly working. Thankfully OSH went back a few weeks after the school holidays.
While OSH care is open, I have chosen to continue to do the morning school/kindy run for the benefit of my children, so I still start work early, and then I do the school drop off, but they go into afternoon care.
Teams has made the transition from the office to working from home much easier. Trying to do all of the things that I did at the office just through the telephone would have been difficult. With Teams you can share files, you can share your screen, record meetings and more importantly see and engage with people.
Given my role is about communication and engaging with people in relation to the WMS, I found that there were days where my headphones were on the whole day with online meetings. Working from home means that there is less information by osmosis so our communications and conversations have needed to become more direct and specific which has led to an increase in emails and online meetings.
3. Has working from home changed the way you work?
My team now has a daily video call catch-up where we just touch base or talk over where we’re up to or a particular issue. The catch-ups have been completely invaluable. I think as a result of this, our team is actually closer and we’ve agreed that once we get back in the office we will keep it up.
Central to my work is stakeholder engagement, so for me it’s important to be able to read body language to enable me to tailor my conversation. There’s some areas where people don’t use their cameras, so then it becomes a phone call whereas before it would have been a face-to-face meeting. So it might mean that those conversations are longer and I ask more questions because I’m not getting the visual cues.
4. What have you missed about working in the office?
Little things. I miss the instant boiled water, not having to wait for a kettle. Also next to work is the Studio Pilates facility and my body is missing it, along with the incidental exercise that you get from walking between meetings.
To compensate, working from home has made me recognise that I need to be more active around self-care. Now I get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and I meditate and then stretch or a do a video pilates class but it’s just not the same.
And as much as I don’t like public transport, sitting on the train for 40 minutes was my time. It wasn’t work time and I wasn’t mum, so it was that transition period for me.
5. What have been the upsides of working from home?
Working from home has given me two hours back in my day so I find that I am less exhausted by the end of the week. It has resulted in a better family life for me because we’re not so pressed for time. The types of interactions I’m having with my girls are richer and less stressed, whereas before things had to be more regimented.
Previously my girls needed to be up and ready to go and be dropped off to care by 7am in the morning, for me to have enough time to catch the train into the city, get to the office, work and do the reverse on the way home. They wouldn’t get home until 6pm at night so that’s a really long tiring day for them. Now, my girls wake up at about 7am or when they have had enough sleep.
6. What will you take away from this whole experience – professionally and personally?
Personally, family is everything to me. I work to create a life for my family, that’s why I do it. Spending time with my two young daughters is very important so work-life balance is something I am continually striving for. The work from home arrangements have meant I am one step closer to achieving it.
Professionally, working from home has opened up my eyes to working differently and rethinking the approach to achieve objectives. My role is all about change management so this was the perfect time for me to walk the walk and talk the talk.
I think something like COVID-19 is the disruptor, it makes people think outside the box. Sometimes people get caught up in the mode of ‘That’s how we’ve always done it’. You need something to shake things up to challenge the status quo and make people consider ‘What can we do better?’ and ‘What better tools are out there for us to use?’. Video conferencing through Teams presents opportunities for efficiencies and increases in productivity when you don’t have that travel time, which again contributes to a better work-life balance.