How are we adapting to working from home?
Working from home has proven to be a big change for many of us at InternetNZ, and we can imagine how it’s affecting you, too. The situation we find is unprecedented but we’re making the most of it where we can, and keeping realistic expectations of ourselves until it’s over.
We’ve done our best to support our people in this time of change and uncertainty. We could just tell you what we’ve done, but we thought it’d be better coming from people in our team directly. Read on to find out about their routines and challenges brought on by working from home and what’s been done.
Sarah, Communications Manager
Managing the communications team comes with no shortage of disruptions throughout the day, so personally I have fewer distractions at home.
My nemesis is the fridge—it’s so easy to grab a snack between each meeting!
Other than that, I’ve been fortunate to be able to set myself up properly in one of our spare rooms. The ability to shut the door and focus is much appreciated, as is closing the door on my work at the end of the day.
My mood fluctuates a lot at the moment. One day I’m in high spirits and the next, the smallest things irritate me. My best strategies for dealing with these are getting enough informal social interaction (not work talk) and ensuring I fit in fresh air and exercise in my day. Otherwise by 7pm, watch out!
The biggest challenge has been onboarding a new staff member into the communications team during a pandemic! We’ve come up with some creative ideas to help this process, for example, she’s meeting a new member of the InternetNZ team every day at 2pm for an informal chat to imitate organic conversations you might have in an office environment.
We’ve had lots of conversations about how we’re not just working from home, but working during a pandemic, and teaching myself that it’s okay to not be at 100% productivity each and every day.
I know that if I ever need to chat something through, my manager is always willing to listen. Likewise, my team and I check in each day on how we’re all doing.
David, Commercial Director
My day typically starts with a coffee and breakfast while I review emails and sort priorities for the day. We, as a family with my wife and teenage daughters, take time to have lunch together most days, and my wife and I manage a short walk after lunch to get some fresh air.
The biggest change is that I get to see a lot more of my family, time that I’m treasuring. I try to keep my work day to normal work hours and leave my desk alone when not working. I enjoy taking phone calls and going for a walk along the river—beats a meeting room!
There are different distractions to being in the office, though. We’re mostly following a working/school day. We get some distractions as the pantry gets raided by the kids. My wife and I, when we have conflicting video meetings, will take turns to move off to a bedroom to not affect the other’s meeting. Headphones also help, and I’m left alone when they’re on.
Some days I can crank out work and other days it just seems...harder. I am learning to roll with the day and not be too hard on myself.
By and large, the work hasn’t changed much, more the way I do it. There’s more asynchronous work and a lot more checking in on my team to ensure they’re doing okay during these extraordinary times, as part of our people first approach in the organisation. Having a tough day, and knowing that’s okay, is incredibly helpful in alleviating anxiety and stress.
Nicola, Policy Advisor
Before lockdown, I used to have a 30 minute walk to work every day, which was a great way to get some exercise and catch up on a podcast.
Routine has been hard to create. All my usual life rhythms have fallen by the wayside, or changed. I used to have three-hour te reo classes on Wednesday nights, and they are paused until our kaiako works out the best way to proceed.
My partner and I live alone in a one-bedroom house in central Wellington, and space is a real issue. We tried having two desks set up in our lounge, but we found that I had too many VC meetings and she couldn’t focus on a single thing.
On the weekends we try to pack up our workspaces the best we can, so it is clear that it is NOT WORK TIME.
Every morning at 9am, my team has a 15 minute VC check-in. Sometimes we talk about work for the day, but the primary goal is to see each other and see how we are all doing.
Our senior leadership team has been honest about how hard things are, and how our emotional and physical wellbeing is at risk. They’ve set clear advice and expectations and provided information about how to get support. There’s been a lot of space and empathy.
We’ve trialled creative ways to use our remote work tools for fun things, such as “watercooler” chats. We still have Friday night drinks and do the daily quiz. These touchstones give us a little more normalcy, and a chance to see people from across the organisation.
Jordan, Chief Executive
I've lost my twenty-five minute walk to and from work along the harbour, but I've added in... a walk along the harbour in the morning. This helps me get into the mindset of being 'at work' instead of being 'at home,' even though the locations are the same. I'm sometimes taking an hour out during the day to exercise or just sit in the sun.
There are fewer distractions now—way fewer! The in-person chats that come with the office just aren't here, and while the number that come through slack or email is high, I can deal with those in my own time. I can focus more easily and for longer than in the office. The biggest hazard is that I'll start randomly cleaning or tidying stuff if I am on a call!
The environment is a better set up for me than usual working-from-home with a screen and desk, so that's a positive. The negative is the awful situation of this being a global pandemic with people dying and a whole slice of day to day life impossible. I was pretty low the first couple of weeks of lockdown, but as the situation in NZ has been getting better, I have been feeling a lot better.
My colleagues have been lovely. The SLT team is meeting often and people are checking in with me as often as I am with them. I can’t say enough how much I really appreciate that, and I’m glad to hear everyone in InternetNZ doing the same.
Jodi, Principal Advisor
A big change is I have a lot more time in the mornings because we’re all at home - I don't have to oversee the making of kids' lunches or factor in the travel to work, for example (and it's amazing how much time can be saved when you don't blow dry your hair or put on makeup). I've taken to eating breakfast and a healthy lunch because I have time and access to a fridge full of ingredients.
It's been a challenge to juggle work and oversee the kids' schooling. They need a lot of support to stick to their routines and stay focused, or when they need help understanding a maths problem. They’ve also found it difficult to grasp the "no screaming when mummy is on a VC" rule.
They were told not to interrupt unless there was blood or fire. Unfortunately, last week, five minutes into an important VC I was helping to run with 40 participants, my son fell over outside and there was lots of blood, so now it's just fire.
Having a schedule for all family members is really helpful. It helps set expectations, so I’m not constantly negotiating with the kids while trying to work. I sprinkle "phone time" throughout the schedule and tie getting their work, exercise or chores done to getting the phone time.
I've been really helped by the people-centric approach taken by InternetNZ. A focus on things like making sure I'm well set up with the right equipment at home, regular team check-ins and social time has supported my physical and mental health, allowing me to get on with work without unnecessary stress.
Ellen, Chief Advisor, International
I live with my 3 year old, so staying home meant my work and home life collided and our routine became almost nothing like it was.
With no childcare, I was basically running a one-person childcare centre. It was a full on juggling act; supporting her and doing work and other tasks during the day. One of the hardest things was the increased need to prepare food and clean: how can two people make so much mess and require so much food?! My daughter had 'mat time' Zoom meetings with her kaiako and friends at daycare a few mornings a week to keep in touch, which was a part of a new routine.
The reality is that working in a focused way isn't often possible while you are in sole charge of a three-year old, due to their need for supervision and support - they have about a NINE minute attention span, I've found out! You can get 23 minutes if it's a really good episode of Story Bots...
Everyone I work with is kind and understands it can be hard - people just laughed when my daughter burst into a meeting I was chairing to first give me a kiss and hug, then again to ask where her bike helmet was and then AGAIN to show me she found it.
InternetNZ made the priorities really clear for our team for this period, knowing so clearly what to focus on has made getting work done easier. Overall the organisation and the team have been flexible and supportive - which has made all the difference in this tough time.