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Working from home, reflections from an academic

Working from home, the struggles and joys of working with colleagues scattered all over the world
Working from home, the struggles and joys of working with colleagues scattered all over the world

In May 2020, I was privileged to start working with Climate Tracker.

At Climate Tracker, my main role is to train journalists in climate reporting. This entails working with different teams across different projects in different countries, and cultural contexts. This has brought a couple challenges, as teams are very varied. But, through these challenges, I’ve had the opportunity to integrate, grow, and learn.

Working remotely + being on COVID19 lockdown, I’ve had the chance to reorient some of my habits and learn a new way of working.

While we reduce our movements and urban expansions, have been able to reconnect again, albeit in a different way, through digital and social media forms of communication to do our work. While these technologies can and should not be thought of as replacing relationships between people, they have at least managed to facilitate more professional interactions.

Here are my top two coping mechanisms as a remote worker:

  1. Transparent communication

Not working in the same building, it is highly likely that very few people (or no one) knows what each person is working on each day. It is crucial to always have a way of letting those you collaborate with know what you are doing at a given time. This could be through giving notice on Slack where you can easily report your day’s scheduled activities, and as you finish your work you can also provide reflections on how you achieved or did not achieve the set goals. If you need assistance from one of the team members, always let them know what your problem is and what kind of assistance you want from them. Remember everyone is busy, and they are not always going to be available for you when you call, so you must alert them of your own deadlines in advance. Give sufficient notice of any plans, in case they also need to consult or develop materials to assist you.

2. Use the technology to your advantage

I am an academic and my duties include teaching, research, and community service. The consultancy work is part of what academics do, especially where their expertise is sought. Academics are producers of knowledge and they should always find a way of sharing that knowledge even when they face challenges. My life has generally never had a ‘free slot’. This can partly be attributed to poor planning of my work. I have needed to overcome this burden, without creating my ‘own time’.

I believe we should disrupt capitalist time, but at this moment I have often needed to work within the ruthless logic of capitalist time. In order to increase my ‘timed productivity’ I have had to fully utilise my Google Calendar . I have since started planning my day and scheduling my activities on Google Calendar and this has greatly helped in accomplishing most of my tasks and in attending scheduled meetings.

I have now learnt to use applications such as youcanbook.me as part of my daily diary routine. This ensures that I manage to automatically book calls with colleagues without the hassles of manual scheduling. The bookings integrate well with Google Calendar so that one can be booked and the calendar is automatically updated. Colleagues and journalists have also booked calls with me in the same way. The application is very useful because it allows you to demarcate the hours and days when you are available for meetings.

All in all, working from home has had its own fair share of challenges, but I can safely say that I am maneuvering my way through the jungle and making progress one day at a time.

Henri-Count
Henri-Count Evans (PhD) is a climate change communication researcher. He has studied media re/presentations of climate change in Africa and beyond.