I was just thinking about writing my first blog post of 2010 about working from home and snow, when I popped onto Twitter and discovered that Marieke Guy (UKOLN remote worker) and Brian Kelly had done the same thing!
It’s my first week back at work after the Christmas break, and I had a good day back on Monday catching up with work and emails and other library staff, and mostly clearing my desk and computer files ready for the replacement who takes over when I go on maternity leave before the end of the month. I’m not teaching this month, partly because students are not back yet, and then mostly doing exams when they are back, so I haven’t been asked to run any student sessions; and partly because I am now large and unwieldy and breathless and find it easier to do computer based work. The main task I now have left before finishing work is completing the Web 2.0 Scoping Study I’ve been working on; I did a lot of work on experimenting with web 2.0 tools and writing the study during the summer, and then had no time during the autumn term due to a busy teaching and enquiries workload.
Luckily, I emailed the study to myself on Monday, thinking I might get a chance to do a bit on it at home, but completely oblivious to the weather forecasts, as they’d been predicting bad weather for a week or so, and so far, the snow in my Welsh village was mainly staying on the mountains!
So when we awoke on Tuesday to find ourselves snowed in, I was very grateful that a) I had a copy of the report accessible from my email and b) I had the kind of job where it was possible to work from home, especially given that my planned work this week involved writing and researching, rather than face to face teaching. In addition, I worked for years for a dispersed e-learning organization called CETIS (a JISC service), and did a lot of home working, so am used to the discipline of typing away on the computer with two dogs and a cat for company.
Interestingly, given that I am working on a web 2.0 study (investigating how web 2.0 tools such as blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr are and can be used by libraries and archives), it has been fascinating to see how much difference web 2.0 technologies make to the home working experience. For starters, I have been able to keep up with the outside world not just via my work email, but also via Twitter and Facebook, which have helped me keep up with the usual professional news and reports (Twitter) and also with weather conditions (both networks). I have also found Twitter very companionable whilst working from home, and posted more tweets than usual.
I also find that you feel quite self conscious about working from home, and very keen that colleagues know you are still working and not taking advantage of the snow to skive off work, so the online networks are also very useful for maintaining contact with people and showing that you are online and “at work” even though not physically in the office.
The other difference with home working is the decision whether to maintain the same working hours; for most of the week I’ve been working office hours with lunch and tea breaks, just as I would at work; but unintentionally had a bit of a longer lunch hour yesterday due to going out in the snow to watch my other half do some fire juggling next to a horse (long story!), which I then compensated for later by spending some time “at work” in the evening reading a new web 2.0 study which I had found out about on Twitter.
Working from home has actually been a real advantage for me this week, not only have I probably got more done than I would have at work, as researching and writing is actually easier to do in the solitude of home; but it’s made it much easier to get through week 32 of my pregnancy, tired and big and heavy, without having to take time off work due to tiredness from travelling.
In summary, I think it’s great if a workplace can trust their workers enough to enable them to work from home during times of adverse weather (or even late pregnancy!), and that not just broadband connections but also web 2.0 technologies can be used effectively to maintain contact and an online work presence; demonstrating just how valuable these tools can be. I can even update my blog from home!