Remote working: feeling less remote

Helena Torres | Centre Administration Manager, Brussels | University of Kent

As I write this I am entering my fifth week of working from home after the move to remote teaching and working for all staff at the University of Kent’s Brussels Centre on 13th March.  At the time we were ahead of our main campus in Canterbury in taking these decisions, needing to respond to the local situation in Belgium and the federal measures relating to Covid-19.

As a commuter, I try to build in a day working from home each week and so consider myself as a relatively experienced remote worker.  However my weekly slot usually includes a quiet, empty house with no other family members competing for space, and also all other business running as usual at the Centre.  The reality of working on a more permanent basis from home has of course presented challenges, but also unexpected positive experiences, one of which I will share.

What has been the most striking feature for me is how much more connected I feel to my colleagues in Canterbury.  I worked there for several years before being in Brussels and therefore had strong networks, but the geographical distance was at the fore of the way we operated.  Meetings and conversations were frequently scheduled for times that colleagues were visiting, or we were going to Canterbury.  Informal interactions only took place when there were face to face visits, as opposed to the ‘bumping into someone on campus’ which happens when you are located in the same place.  Suddenly I feel that we are all closely connected as everyone is remote working, whether they be in the UK or Belgium.  The borders have gone.  We are operating in the same space.  Meetings and training sessions held on the main campus are now held via Zoom or Teams and so I can attend with ease, without trying to fit in the time to travel over.  Informal interactions with Canterbury-based colleagues are easier too with the introduction of Teams. 

I cannot say that I prefer this way of communicating and I am not convinced that it would be as effective in building new working relationships, but in the first month of this difficult time for us all, feeling less remote has been a good thing. 

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