2. Work/Home – The benefits of tech

Work/Home - The benefits of tech

A baptism of fire
I am encouraged to think through some of the positives – the collaborative and supporting teaching environment amongst colleagues; the control over lecture content in the pre-recordings; the engagement of the students and some of the opportunities that perhaps online learning offers for accessibility. Which is all to say, this painful, baptism of fire into online learning has not scared me off using this approach again. Although, thoughts linger about how I could have been better supported to ensure it was a less painful experience. #14

From the chin up
Some really positive ways of working with people, new ways of working with people came through in the gaps, new spaces for things to happen. This online conference that I did at the beginning of August, we had a symposium and I felt quite confident going into that and that went okay, but then I attended a roundtable discussion which is a particular feature of this conference and I was the first one to ask a question. That’s never happened before. I think it’s something that happens to women a lot, you know, you know you walk in a room and you know that people are judging what you’re wearing, your hairstyle, the size of breasts, your thighs, you know, the lipstick tone that you’ve got on, whether you’re fashionable or not, you know, and that might not be such a case if people can only see you from the chin up.  #3

The democratising effects of Zoom.
I want to make one final point as I reflect on my day to day working life.  I have found working remotely empowering.  I have always struggled to have a voice in meetings, and often they are dominated by those with the loudest voices – usually senior white men.  Zoom has been a revelation, I have the confidence to speak out in a way that I wouldn’t have done in person.  I’m more likely to be invited to speak if I indicate that I want to.  It’s also easier to chair meetings – there’s far less bad behaviour.  I think there’s a lot to do with gender and status going on with this.  I hope we don’t back track when things go back to ‘normal’.  I think possibly just because of my upbringing, if there is somebody who is, sort of, shouting and making a loud point, usually an older male, I’m probably not going to have the confidence to take that on, whereas I think zoom is a complete equaliser. I don’t know, maybe I’m not picking up on the weirdness of the room or something, but I just have the confidence to speak out and put my hand up. I don’t have all the, kind of, like, oh my god  I dare not speak in this situation because of whatever. I had an internal job interview a couple of weeks ago and it was with some really, really senior members of the university.  I didn’t get the job, but I felt the interview went very well. Again, I felt like I had the confidence to do it that I might have not had in, sort of, real life.  #19

A renewed enthusiasm for social media
When things moved online, it meant I could attend events that I previously couldn’t as I live away from the university. I attended extra training that was offered in addition to our course, the online meets ups moved online and for the freturned to Twitter again and engaged with other researchers and sociology teachers, sharing ideas to keep us cheerful. I found the Association of irst time I could join in and meet other students. I had more time to use Twitter and connect with other researchers and found some online events to attend and watch. My confidence in my research grew, I was able to do lots of online research and reading. I did a presentation for a PGR round table event (something I couldn’t attend before) and wrote a blog. Twitter was helpful. I have used it previously to network and share, but I Working Class Academics and they offered some meet ups online which were great. I have continued engaging with Twitter since we left lockdown and have a renewed enthusiasm for social media in regards to helping with my research.  So in that respect, the lockdown was a fantastic opportunity for the research side of my life and my own career development.   #8

The online writing group
Being part of an online writing group was really important to me in the summer of 2020.  Initially I had refused the circulated invitation to participate, not in my normal way of just ignoring a general call because I didn’t have time but by replying and setting out why I didn’t think I could participate. As a full-time academic finding time for my own research and writing is difficult at the best of times. During lockdown with additional pastoral and administrative work due to the pandemic as well as home-schooling, it just didn’t feel possible to contemplate writing time. It was nearly two months into lockdown and I was frustrated and tired. My rejection email was a chance to put into writing the reality of my situation. The kindness and care in the response I got was supportive and sustaining. The acknowledgment of the difficult situation I was in was really important to me, and the suggestion that I could dip in and out of the group was a gentle nudge. It gave me permission as it were to try, not to let go of my own intellectual space entirely but to try to make time for it. The good humour and collegiality from other female academics in the writing sessions was really nourishing. Just talking with other people and knowing that they were going through the same stuff, and still getting stuff done. It was a really supportive, permissive space – permission to take care of my intellectual self not just care for family and students.  #1

Positives (and negatives)
I joined like an online writing group that someone in the department set up so three times a week for an hour and a half, two hours, we’d all write together. That was great, I made some really good friends through that and it just like helped keep me a bit more connected because I felt like really isolated working from home, it’s not my favorite. I also did quite a lot of networking online, emailing old colleagues.  With remote working, the negative is that I’ve not met my colleagues face to face. But a real positive of remote working for me with a baby now is that I can attend all these seminars and things like that without like worrying so I can just bring her to seminars and meetings virtually and just breastfeed her with my camera off or out of view. So I have a bit more privacy. #23

Friday chats
On a Friday, about 10 o’clock we all just either just log in and see who’s around and just have a chat and a catch-up with everyone.  One of our colleagues has moved jobs over COVID, so we won’t actually see him in person when we go back to the office, so it was quite nice hearing about someone else’s work and how different institutes are coping and life carries on and people are still getting jobs.  We don’t really talk about work that much because we have google hang-outs and stuff, for work related questions, so it’s just trying to see how everyone is doing. #19

Nature notes
Just before we entered lockdown, I had shown my dad how to use Zoom, so he could keep up with me and my brother (who lives in London).  This proved to be a lifesaver, as we could see as well as hear each other in a three-way conversation.  In first lockdown, we had been told to restrict our activities out of doors to one daily walk.  It was such a warm Easter that I took to going out for an early morning walk of about five miles before breakfast.  On that walk, I could see the trees coming into leaf, and could hear the birds more clearly than ever, as there was so little traffic.  In a moment of inspiration, I decided to start a family WhatsApp group to record ‘nature notes’.  This gave dad something to get out of the house for, and to stop just walking quickly from one place to another with his head down.  A year later, we are all still doing this, and have become a family of bird-watchers.  #12