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Gillian Hamilton reflects on the challenges of working from home

How often have we said to each other, "You know, if only I had a couple of days to work at home, I’m sure I would get caught up with everything I need to do…"? Since school buildings closed and many of us moved to learning and working at home, our ‘normal’ ways of working have changed considerably. I normally live on my own in a small house in Glasgow, but my mum hasn’t been keeping too well recently and I was worried that she wouldn’t cope well on her own, so I made the decision to bring her to stay with me. My son, who has been living in London for the last two years, also arrived home as the theatre that he works in has closed for now. You’ll be getting the picture of my changed living circumstances….

In the PLL team we have been adjusting to the changes by setting up weekly virtual team meetings, connecting with local authority and university colleagues to take forward programme development and recruitment, contacting all programme participants with information and an initial set of FAQs to keep everyone up-to-date with programme related activity, planning changes to programme delivery, working with teachers across the system on a series of blogs to share practice and responding to local authority requests for colleagues to support learning in Hubs.

Like many, I’m spending a lot of time online – sometimes all day, going between telephone calls, teleconferences and skype meetings, and it can be a challenge to stay focused, contribute and follow up on the actions from all of these.

I’m trying really hard to have some routine around my working life – getting up at the same time as usual, having a shower, then breakfast before starting work.

What am I finding most challenging? To be honest, one of the things that I’m missing most is the face-to-face contact that we have on a daily basis – the conversations that we all have about work and leisure activities – about what box sets we are watching, the funny work tales and the laughter we share throughout the day. I’ve been so impressed at how our IT systems are helping us keep these connections – when I finish writing this, I’ll be joining the PLL virtual coffee break, but only a few weeks in, I’m already yearning for those face to face chats that we all took for granted.

What’s inspiring me? Every day, I continue to be inspired by the positivity and the commitment of colleagues across the education system. We are all contributing to this changing world in many different ways, ensuring the wellbeing and safety of children, young people and families throughout Scotland, whilst juggling an enormous range of personal commitments and challenges.

In preparing for a discussion earlier this week I read an article by Steve Munby, the former Chief Executive of the Education Development Trust, where he was sharing some of his reflections on leadership during COVID-19 and these really struck a chord with me:

  • Demonstrate optimism and resilience in bucket loads, even if we are struggling inside.
  • Ask for help from others and don’t think we can do this on our own.
  • Trust in our instincts, hold true to our values, and make the best choices and decisions we can, even if we sometimes get it wrong.

On social media, there’s a strong sense of the Scottish education community supporting each other – through sharing resources, ideas, and personal messages to support learners and colleagues. There’s also a commitment to supporting each other’s mental health and well-being through these networks; and that’s it’s definitely okay to ask for help.

I know, from many conversations, that we are all working so hard to support each other – and that’s never been more important. The compassion for others across our education system is enormous, and I’m so proud to be a part of that.