Come Together

There are currently 33 permanent UKOLN staff members listed on the UKOLN Staff page. Add in the 4 temporary staff and that makes 37 of us (8 people work remotely).

We’ve got considerably bigger in last few years. I think we were cruising along in the high teens, low twenties when I started back in May 2000. Unfortunately the reality is that with such a big team a lot of us rarely get to meet up. With the exception of the UKOLN 30 year anniversary last year (which I didn’t attend having just returned from maternity leave) and the sporadic away days we have (2 since I joined) the opportunities to all come together are few and far between. Which was why it was so great that our admin team decided to organise an informal lunch for us yesterday at the American Museum, Bath.

ukoln

OK, not everyone went but quite a few people did, including four remote workers. We all enjoyed a spectacular view and some friendly chat about life, the universe and digital information!

I personally feel that having an organisational culture that supports informal meet ups is really important. It makes for a positive, productive, environment – and that’s great for employers and employees alike.

Roll on Christmas lunch!
;-)

Low Hanging Fruit: UKOLN Support for Remote Workers

Have I mentioned before that I’m the UKOLN Remote Worker Champion?
;-)

In the last couple of months here at UKOLN we’ve been trying a out a few relatively easy to implement ideas that will hopefully make remote working a little easier. All these ideas are ‘low hanging fruit’ and something most organisations could quite easily have a go at.

Videoing Staff Seminars

We are lucky enough to have a good number of excellent speakers who come to visit UKOLN and give presentations on their work. In the past you had to physically attend a session to hear the talk, for remote workers this would mean a long trip for an hour-long seminar. Recently our systems team have invested in a High Definition HDD Camcorder and we are now able to video and share the talks after the event, presenter agreeing.

The camcorder is a Canon HG20 which was chosen by the systems team but I’m sure you could achieve a great deal without such a high specification camera. The HG20 is a very nice camera indeed, and we still have quite a long way to go to realising it’s full potential. During the initial trial we recorded the footage at very high quality, which couldn’t easily be converted to Web quality for sharing! At the moment only a few members of the systems team know how to use the camera, but once set up it just requires turning on. Usually someone is available to manipulate and move it during the session, but if not a reasonable quality can be achieved by just leaving it.

Staff Seminar

The video footage is released as soon as possible after the seminar along with the slides and any other multimedia used. All seminars are available for staff use indefinitely and stored in our staff Intranet. They are not currently available externally but this is something we may look at in the future. Obviously making seminars available in this way is great for all staff as many are out of the office or otherwise busy and unable to attend.

Support for Phoning in to meetings

UKOLN have recently purchased a new conference phone that has 6 microphones. This avoids the constant ‘phone shifting’ we used to have to suffer during staff meetings, it also means that people who are phoning in can hear questions and comments much better.

All UKOLN remote workers have Skype accounts and an appointed person usually connects to those phoning in to the meeting to monitor any problems with the sound, questions etc. We also try to follow the guidance I mentioned in a previous blog post on virtual meetings.

Anyone presenting at a meeting makes every effort to ensure their presentation slides are available in good time so remote workers can access them. We are toying with the idea of having a ‘remote worker’s deposit area’ that acts as an online storage facility for each meeting.

Staff Development Day

We have been lucky enough to secure a staff development day for Remote workers later this month. The day, which will be a follow up to our previous workshop and again be facilitated by Sylvia Vacher, will focus on time management and motivation. We intend to have a social night (for all staff) on the night before the workshop so hopefully it will be a good bonding opportunity generally.

Remote Workers List

I’ve recently set up a internal remote workers email list. This allows other UKOLN staff to address us directly as a group (for example for admin tasks) and also for us to share ideas, discuss things etc. I’ve also been sending out a email newsletter with a round up of current activities. We all have a common issue (dealing with working out of the office) so have much to discuss and the list has been useful without being overwhelming.

Quite a few of us also now have Twitter accounts, which has been another way to stay in touch.

Thanks to the Systems and management teams for all their help with implementing these ideas.

If you have any ideas on other easy to implement support techniques then please do comment.