Brian Kelly was the line manager who consented to my working from home and who encouraged me to write a blog about my experiences. Now 6 years down the line he too has started working from home and I’ve managed to persuade him to write about his lifestyle change for the blog.
Brian works for Cetis, an organisation that specialises in technology innovation and interoperability standards in learning, education and training, as an Innovation Advocate. He previously worked at UKOLN as UK Web Focus from 1996-2013. Brian has worked across the UK higher education sector, having previously worked in IT service departments at the universities of Loughborough, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle.
Brian is a prolific blogger and has also published peer-reviewed papers in areas including web accessibility, standards, digital preservation, institutional repositories and open practises.
My former colleague Marieke Guy kindly wrote a guest post on my UK Web Focus blog which was published during Open Education Week as part of a series of guest posts covering a variety of issues related to open education.
Marieke invited me to reciprocate by writing a guest post on her Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog about my experiences of being a home worker. I am happy to respond to that request by writing this post.
My Move To Home Working
On 24 April 2013 I announced that “My Redundancy Letter Arrived Today“. On the 31 July 2013 myself and many of my colleague at UKOLN were made redundant.
In my final week at UKOLN I wrote a post on Life After UKOLN: Looking For New Opportunities. I’m pleased to say that on 28 October 2013 I was able to write a post which announced that I was Starting A New Job! That was the day I began work as Innovation Advocate at Cetis, University of Bolton.
I’m enjoying my new job. However there has been one significant change: after working in an office at the University of Bath for over 16 years I am now a home worker.
Between leaving UKOLN and starting at Cetis I did do some consultancy work and updated my professional skills by completing a MOOC. But I was also able during the three months to complete the renovations on my house. As well as replacing bathrooms which still had their original 1970s decor one of the bedrooms was converted into my office. My office is now just 10 metres from my bed – there have been no 45 minute bus trips on cold and wet winter mornings for me this winter :-)
During the house renovation (which included a new kitchen and bathrooms and new ceilings in the bathrooms and living room, dining room and kitchen) I was able to use the work to have computer cabling installed with network points provided in most of the rooms throughout the house.
On the advice of a former colleague I also had a cupboard build which housed various IT boxes including the router and a NAS (box). This was build in the living room, so that the WiFi router was more centrally located, with a strong WiFi signal being available throughout the house.
This box is shown. What can’t be seen are the network cables (CAT-6) which go into a void behind the wall and are then hidden behind the coving (which was installed during the renovation work). The cables go up into the loft and then down into all of the bedrooms so that a network point is available in all of the rooms. Note all of the network points are currently enabled, however, as I only have a router with 8 network points and three of these are located by the TV and are connected to the TV, YouView box and XBox.
The office also contains IKEA bookcases around two of the walls. I also had wooden shutter blinds installed in the room which can provide an additional level of privacy. The upstairs office, incidentally, is located on a ground floor since the house is built into a hill. Next to the office is a door located at the end of the upstairs corridor which opens to a parking area.
In brief, I am very happy with the work which was carried out to the house last year. In particular my office is a pleasant place to work.
The Software Environment
Although my physical environment has changed significantly my online environment has many similarities to my previous working environment. I am continuing to make use of several Cloud services to support my work, such as Google Docs and Dropbox, although I still also make use of MS Office products.
I am finding that I am using Skype much more than I did previously (it is interesting that this proprietary system is now a de facto standard for many). In addition to Skype I am also making use of Google Hangouts with this tool being used for regular online meetings with my Cetis colleagues.
I have been aware for some time from reading Marieke’s posts on her Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog that the biggest challenges in remote working (and especially in home working) are concerned with issues such as the lack of regular face-to-face meetings with colleagues and the ad hoc meetings with others and, on another level,working in the place one lives.
I do continue to feel the need for intellectual stimulation from interactions with my peers. But this is a reason why I have felt it important to cultivate my online professional networks. Channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn help to provide such intellectual stimulation as well as the social intercourse which is needed.
In Marieke’s blog posts she has given her thoughts on working in one’s home environment. I try to ensure that my work does not completely dominate my life. One decision I did make when I was offered the job at Cetis was that I would work four days a week, with Friday as time for myself or for other professional interests. I do try and take regular exercise; I try to take a walk to nearby shops to buy some milk or bread two or three times a week.
To sum up in a tweet: “My experiences of being a home worker: enjoying it; need to be disciplined; don’t think I’d like to go back to being an office worker!“