Corporate Marketing & Liaison Officer Jenine Timms has been working on campus as part of BU’s Clearing operation since the end of June. She has taken the time to share her experience of returning to the office with her team and what her new routine looks like.
What is your working situation at the moment?
Since the end of June, I have been on rota working in Melbury House to implement and deliver the clearing operation (yes, it really goes on from July to the end of September!) I was one of two people that went back into Melbury house to set up the operation and now continue to work three days in the office and six (working) days out in a bubble of four people.
How have you found things?
I have always worked from home throughout my career but never for a sustained length of time. Somehow knowing that you must work from home rather than having the choice makes it less of a pleasure and I certainly fell out of love with it. When I work from home usually it’s to hide away and get work done but now there is no hiding!
Whilst Microsoft Teams has many major advantages to allow us to work from home, it can also be very intense if you spend hours and hours in meetings every day. I was finding that a challenge and couldn’t wait to get back to the office. As the day grew closer, I started to have that ‘end of the school holidays’ feeling and the night before I didn’t sleep very well. I was wondering if I’d remember all the things I had to do before going into the office.
Once I was on my way it felt great, I easily slipped back into my commute that I used to do on auto pilot (with the added bonus of it taking a fraction of the time as there was no traffic on the roads) When I got into the office and met my colleague, we were so excited to see another human that we wanted to hug - but of course couldn’t. We spent the day reminding ourselves that we must stay two meters apart as we set up the office for the clearing bubbles to start a few days later.
The office looked the same but was a little different. It felt like we had come in on a weekend and shouldn’t be there as it was just the two of us. Of course, there were new signage and sanitisation stations and signs to read but other than that it looked like we had never been away. The main thing that struck me was the plant graveyard we walked through; all those forgotten plants with leaves on the floor and bare dried up branches. The unexpected tragedy of Covid-19!*
Those two days in the office flew by and before we knew it, we had all the desks for the clearing bubbles set up, welcome signs pinned up and treats on people’s desks. The estates team came to deliver our welcome packs and were also thrilled to see other people (it was great to see them too!). It was a surreal experience being the first to return to the department, but it soon felt familiar.
What is your new routine?
I tend to get to the office before 8.30am so that I can use the kitchen for breakfast and a cup of tea before the other three team members arrive. I mark myself on the register board (a safety measure we introduced so we always know who’s in and out). At 9am we have a morning briefing and plan for the day ahead. We are all spread out in the office now, four of us in a space that probably used to house nearer 40 people. To talk to each other we must stand up at our desks and shout but the fact we are there together, seeing each other in person can’t be beaten.
To begin with it was very strange having all that space to ourselves but now we have got used to it. We're also now used to wearing masks when not at our desks, sanitising and washing our hands regularly and using the one-way system around our floor.
It's great to have people to talk to outside the virtual world and to have a proper desk, chair (who knew those ugly chairs on wheels were some comfortable!) as well as my two monitors back. That being said it also makes the days that I work from home more fun and I relish not having to do my hair or makeup on those days rather than feeling lazy like I did during lockdown.
For me another bonus of working in the office is being able to have a beach run or sea swim at lunch time which has helped me feel like things are slowly getting back to the way they were. It is also great knowing that when I leave the office my work is done for the day. I find it difficult to switch off when I am working at home but on the days I am in the office, I don’t feel like that. I leave it at the door of Melbury House.
What tips do you have to share in terms of working in the office?
Being back in the office soon became like putting on a pair of comfy old slippers. I never felt worried about my safety and the estates and health and safety teams have done a great job to ensure we are all comfortable.
Two tips from me would be to invest in a nice hand cream as your hands get sore from all the sanitising and (more for the ladies) wear a scarf so that if you leave your desk without your face mask you can cover your mouth and nose but look stylish at the same time.
What have you been doing to look after your physical and mental health?
I’m a keen fitness freak so lockdown has meant constantly adapting my routines to feel like I was exercising enough which in turn helps my mental wellbeing. For example, I have not had the luxury of the swimming pool so instead have extended my time in open water and so far, I’ve swum 161km in lakes or the sea since the pools closed.
Are you particularly proud of something you have achieved?
I’ve been so proud of how well we have all adapted to the changing situation and how we all worked through the down times we have had. Lockdown has certainly taught me not to take anything for granted. It’s also reinforced my loathing of cameras and video calls - you can’t escape them, at work or at home!
What four activities have you been keeping yourself occupied with outside of work?
Swimming, running, cycling and doing puzzles (turns out they aren’t just for old people!)
*I am pleased to report that after a few weeks of TLC the plants are all looking much healthier and have new shoots and leaves.