Working from home becomes new norm for Alison

For many of us, working from home has become the new normal in these ‘unprecedented times’. For Science Partnerships Team Program Coordinator Alison Wright, it’s meant changing up her workspace, dressing down in trackies and home schooling her daughter.

Science Partnerships Team Program Coordinator Alison Wright

1. Describe your work from home set up?

I’m at a desk in our kitchen/dining/living room area where I have a great view of Adelaide. My husband usually works from home and our daughter, Demi, is seven. So, we all work in this room together albeit from different desks. We do have an office, well a spare room where my desk used to be, but I didn’t want to be stuck in there so I moved it out into our communal area.

When I first started working from home I thought, ‘Every hour I’m going to get up and do a plank’. It worked for two plank sessions but now the yoga mat has been left in the corner of the room.

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

I’ve been working from home since 18 March. For a while I was juggling work and home schooling Demi, although I was very lucky because my husband was home and could help out as well. Demi has had a tough time because (even though she is vaccinated) she developed chicken pox from me having shingles, then she broke her toe, then she was COVID tested (that was an experience!) and now she is battling a chest infection!

Not having the commute to and from work has had a number of impacts. I used to ride my bike into work, so I’ve certainly put on some ‘winter insulation’. That journey also gave me a break, whereas I now finish at 5-ish and there is no transition between work and home. To introduce a bit of separation, at the end of the day when I turn off my computer I literally say out loud: “Okay, I’m done for the day”.

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

I think it’s easier for me to focus when I’m working from home. I’ve been in the department for twenty years, and I support many different projects which can mean that people come up and ask a lot of questions whereas that’s not happening as much now, so my focus on my actual deliverables has improved. 

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

I’ve missed the interaction with colleagues and the easy access to people, even though meetings can be time consuming, I miss the opportunity to catch-up in person and resolve a number of things at once.

I have regular catch-ups with my managers about my deliverables but it’s not as easy now. It’s not that I’ve lost contact with them but just being able to pop in quickly for a chat is so handy … sometimes I feel like I’ve sent 5 or 6 emails a day just asking simple questions.

I miss the kitchen banter and finding out about other work projects from just chatting. Some things are more difficult, for instance email correspondence has significantly increased; I’m getting lots of emails because I’m not able to get up and walk across to that person to ask questions such as, ‘Where is that document in iShare?’

Also, face-to-face meetings have less glitches. Even though we have really great technology to do these communal meetings – and I would do them in the future if it saves on air travel – I miss being able to meet with people in person.

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

The ability to concentrate with less interruptions is a plus and the flexibility is nice. For instance, this morning I started work at 7:30am because I want to take a break later so I can walk my dog.  But I don’t generally work past 5:30-ish because Demi will ask ‘What are you doing? Are you finished yet? Can we play?’

The flexibility of getting up and going to my kitchen is not a good thing, however I’m getting more sleep because I’m not commuting to work. Sometimes I say to my husband, ‘I don’t want to go back to how it was’, but then I think, ‘I need to get back’.

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

I think my takeaway is learning to slow down and appreciate the simple things. It seems contradictory, because as I said I’m delivering more at work, but being in lockdown makes you slow down, you have less commitments, no after-school activities, no Saturdays sports, no social engagements and you’re not going to the shops three times a week. I was playing netball twice a week, so I haven’t been dashing off to that either.

I also have a real appreciation for living in Australia which I always have had, but this has highlighted it even more.

The other thing is seeing how adaptable people are and realising that when you have to do something, you can. The way that we’ve all adapted to working from home and still delivered our work has been great. Some things that we’ve previously considered impossible, we’ve been able to achieve. Before COVID-19 we would have said, ‘we’re not going to be able to do this meeting through Zoom’, or ‘We’re not going to be able to do it this way’, and now we know we can. I think this experience will change the way that we work in the future, especially for interstate travel, because we now know that there are other options.