Working From Home

Looking back on my diary from this time last month it’s amazing to think that we had no idea what was ahead of us.  The speed at which our lives have changed is phenomenal and the speed at which we have responded to the change and adapted our way in work is equally remarkable.

What has amazed me is the ease at which the teams in NLN Bray, Arklow and Stillorgan have responded to the challenge of home working. On a daily basis I see ingenuity in problem solving, a genuine concern for the students’ welfare and a new way of educating that is going to have an impact on how we work long after the virus has cleared. 

I’ve been amazed at the camaraderie among the staff and the support they give each other.  As I’m writing this the Bray and Park House teams are having a virtual coffee break using Zoom – no work talk allowed!  This lets the whole team chat together.  It’s important at this time that we feel part of a team, with a shared vision to support our students and at the same time have a bit of fun.

In Arklow we have been sending out packs of workbooks to the students.  The feedback from the students is that they prefer hardcopies to working online.  Not all students have access to either a laptop or PC now that parents and partners are working from home.  We have also realised that rural broadband can be as bad as we have been told.

Next week we will be running a Zoom stress management and relaxation class for the Link programme which supports students with mental health difficulties.  The students tell us they are practicing the strategies they learnt while in the centre to keep themselves well, so if you see someone doing tai chi in their garden they just might be an NLN student. 

This is an appalling crisis we are dealing with, which the experts tell us will get worse before it gets better.  During this time we need to seek out positives and keep ourselves well.  Most importantly we need to realise that we are making a difference in peoples’ lives by continuing to deliver not only the educational piece of our work but also the support piece.

 We have a unique insight into our students’ backgrounds that most educational establishments don’t, which means our response to this crisis can be more person centred, targeted and valuable.

To finish let me share what I have learned so far from working at home.

1.       The days of travelling across the country for meetings or training will hopefully come to an end. Microsoft Teams or Zoom can replace this most times if not always.

2.       We need to include working from home in all our programmes, particularly Level 5 programmes to ensure that those who are progressing to university are experts in remote learning.

3.       Let’s not rush back to the “old ways” of working when this is over, let’s do a review and reconsider how we do things.

4.       Finally, old houses have very thick walls and Wi-Fi coverage can be poor.  See pic for a glimpse of my new work space (all other rooms were “booked” by my student family).

Deborah Coughlan

Area Manager NLN Wicklow