For James there’s no place like face to face

For Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges/Murray Darling Basin Senior Project Officer James Trezise the past couple of months has meant ‘working from bedroom’. Not an easy task when you’re a landscape ecologist. Instead of field trips it’s now phone calls and a whiteboard.

Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges/Murray Darling Basin Senior Project Officer James Trezise

1. Describe your work from home set up?

I live in a share house so my bedroom is my office. I’ve got a whiteboard and an enormous computer screen for my mapping work. The desk was in my bedroom before COVID-19 as I’m also at university part-time studying a PhD.

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

As part of my role I do quite a bit of field work but I’ve adapted pretty well to being based in an office. The only thing is that when your office is your bedroom it’s hard to switch off, because when you see the computer you think about work. I finish work between 5:30-6pm, but later in the evening I often think, ‘Maybe I should log on and do that extra work that I didn’t finish’. So you do feel like you’re always working.

A couple of weeks into working from home I invested in a whiteboard to help me compartmentalise my two roles at DEW and my PhD work. Before COVID-19 this wasn’t an issue as I could do it physically by changing my location: I’d work in the office in Mt Barker and I’d work on my PhD at university.

The whiteboard has helped me organise my day much better. I’ve got my government job, and I’ve got uni and at the start of each day I look at each different objective that I want to achieve and make sure that it’s prioritised.

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

A lot of my role is about building relationships and trust with landholders which involves visiting them and having a cup of tea with them at their kitchen table or driving out and showing them really interesting plants on their property.

I’ve had to come up with different ways to do that. I developed a fact sheet which I email to them and then follow up with a phone call. It’s effective but people respond better when they can see your face and look you in the eye.

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

I’ve really missed those chats you have with colleagues in the office kitchen. Not only from the social aspect, but so often those little discussions about work-related things lead to ideas for the projects you’re working on.

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

Not having the commute is a huge deal because of the extra time I have for work, but apart from that there’s not that many advantages.

If I do end up going shopping during the day I just make that time up, so it is nice to have that flexibility. But I only do it occasionally and probably to the same extent as before COVID-19.

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

Same answer for both – being able to see people in person and appreciating how important that is. It’s become clear to me how superior face to face interaction is compared with talking to people on the phone, or any other way.

And of course, I’ve really missed seeing my friends. I’ve kept in contact with my best mates through Facebook but I haven’t kept in contact with at least half of my friendship group. They’re not the sort of people that I’m going to set up a Teams meeting with, and calling them wouldn’t be the norm either. But thankfully the restrictions are easing so it will be nice to go to the pub with them again.