Call us on the Landline:
The TR&I Team is Working from HomeSince Leo Varadkar made his wartime-like speech on Thursday 12 March, daily life in Ireland has changed significantly, particularly with the most recent restrictions. The Trinity Research and Innovation Team, like many of our colleagues, are now working from home. FYI we don’t really have a landline, but we do have Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Over the last couple of weeks, our team has been putting plans in place so that we can continue to help the Trinity academic community during these difficult times.
Our team did a trial run of working from home just before the closure of the university, so we had a lot of the equipment we needed up and running before Leo’s announcement: laptops, access to files, various diaries and calendars reminding us what we’d planned to be doing, that sort of thing.
So here we all are now, working from home: The Contracts Office, the Research Development Office, the Office of Corporate Partnership and Knowledge Exchange (which includes the TTO, the Business Development Team, and CONSULT Trinity). This is a stressful time, and the Trinity community is under a lot of pressure. We’re all dealing with new and challenging situations, so whatever TR&I can do to help, we’ll do.
The Pros and Cons of Working from Home:
We are all figuring out new technology and software, and learning to hold meetings online (“Can everyone go on mute?”).
In many ways, we have more time available for focussed work. As noted by Camilla Kelly, the RDO’s Head of National and International Funding: “Working from home – upside, no commute.” And we’re all aiming to keep well and keep our families healthy.
To find out more about this, I spoke to Dr Joan Cahill, lecturer from the School of Psychology and Senior Researcher and Principal Investigator with the Centre for Innovative Human Systems, whose research focuses on wellness and the workplace.
According to Joan, it is important manage our attitudes to this situation, “to accept change, self-manage, be aware of self and potential stressors, and not avoid our new reality (including the uncertainty that goes with it).”
Joan’s work combines philosophy, psychology, and technology in exploring how to improve current work environments. She talks about focusing on what French philosopher Henri Bergson describes as the “spiritual immune system.” She says that we can achieve “small wins each day” which can be “in relation to family or work,” and we should take note of these wins and reward ourselves for them. This helps with coping with the current situation.
Joan advises that wellbeing means considering the three wellbeing pillars: the “biopsychosocial.”
First is the biological pillar: getting enough sleep (seven to eight hours a night), taking physical exercise, diet and nutrition.
Next is the psychological pillar: not ignoring what is going on, positive self-talk, remembering that the language you use impacts on your thinking and attitudes, accepting the changes and embracing the potential for positives (i.e. “the learning and self-growth that might come with building and practicing resilience”). Joan advises avoiding putting ourselves under pressure to do things perfectly, or to have the capacity to do things as we may have done previously.
And finally, the social pillar: talking with family and friends using video calls, having a virtual coffee with colleagues and sharing experiences, and also managing levels of communication and avoiding being overloaded with pressure to keep in touch.
A key point highlighted by Joan is that “someone who is experiencing stressful life events may find that he or she is less able to cope with demands and deadlines at work, even though work is not the cause and had never been a problem before.”
Trinity academics and working from home
My conversation with Joan highlighted several issues that Trinity academics may now be dealing with while trying to continue with the teaching and research activities.
According to Joan, “many are worried about continuity in employment, specifically for researchers and their ability to work on proposals.” There is also “significant concern about ability to do research, such as data collection and conference organisation or attendance.” Academics are working hard in relation to the “quality of lecture delivery using new online formats, providing clarity to students about assessments and exams, and following up on communications and emails with students.” There is a sense of uncertainty about the “new normal,” including “how much work other people are doing, how other people are adapting to changes, how others are balancing work requirements with family responsibilities, concern about demonstrating that we are working (such as through answering emails).” She advises that “being upfront about when we are working and when you are not working takes the pressure off.”
Joan also sought to emphasise some positives: “We are all in this together – students, academic staff, research staff, administration staff, critical services staff and all the others – and we have common goals.” She notes that Trinity staff “have adapted already – this is a huge positive.”
These are some of the things we’ve learned over the past few weeks while adjusting to our new home working environments.
We’ve all been busy setting up some kind of office space, coping with small rented flats or looking after the kids. And if they’re teenagers, as one member of our team said, it’s about trying not to kill each other.
Here is Doris Alexander, Associate Director of European Engagement: “I have Teams up on the screen which has been a great way of linking in with others and boosting morale.”
And Elaine Pereira Farrell, Research Programmes Officer at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, checking in from her Home Office:
We’ve also taken some advice from Twitter:
Photo credit: @SusieSteiner1
And some of our team have been embracing humour on this front, with this one from Lorraine Hughes, our TR&I administrator and generally the person who keeps us all organised:
Graham McMullin, Senior Operations Manager and case manager from the TTO had this to say:
“I live out in the countryside so being isolated and working at home is quite normal for me. Even my kids don’t feel the need to meet up with friends because ‘we are normally bored at home anyway!’
Some of the 2hrs 30 mins saving in daily travelling time is being put to good use by going for a walk in the morning with my wife. All in all – not a bad way to work, particularly as I managed to get two monitor screens home with me before the shutdown.”
Elsewhere, Carol Carmody from the Contracts Office has a bit of Trinity at home with her:
And John Whelan, our ICT case manager from the TTO, reminds us all to sanitise our work spaces:
Another upside has been the increased importance of workplace assistants.
Here is TR&I Director Leonard Hobbs with Benji, working from home in Co. Kildare:
And here’s the Head of OCPKE Declan Weldon’s hardworking “desk-buddy” Luna, showing ferocious concentration:
And reminding us that we should all get fresh air and sunshine when we can:
And to remember fondly when we were able to treat ourselves in the shops:
Gill Marmelstein, Research Projects Officer in the RDO, shared her enthusiastic work colleague Snoopy, who provides support and advice during these uncertain times:
Here is our Licensing Manager Sam Williams and her office mascot and chief negotiator Paddy the Beagle:
Tom Barrett from the Contracts Office has been working with Mollie, who dials in on Team calls: “I think she’s lost interest at this stage!”
At this time of national crisis, we are grateful to those on the frontlines: the healthcare workers, the retail workers, the carers, government workers and so many others.
The team at TR&I has been keen to convey that we’re here to support our Trinity academics at this time.
As Bevin McGeever, Consultancy Development Manager from CONSULT Trinity, commented, “we're acutely aware of how challenging things are for our academic community right now and want to help. We're available by email, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom whether you've logistical queries or just need to see a friendly face!”
Dr Kate Smyth, April 2020