How was lockdown for you?

Published: 10 September 2020

We hear from colleagues across the University about their experiences of working from home - and how the new term will affect them

The start of term is always a busy and exciting time as we prepare to welcome new and existing students alike, although this year looks a little different to usual as we move into Phase 3 of our recovery work, and preparations continue for the new academic year and the safe recommencement of teaching.  

While many staff will continue working from home through this period, we know there are a vast array of varying situations for colleagues across all areas of the University, with some remaining working on campus, others returning (perhaps after a period of furlough), or, for most of our staff, continuing to deliver their roles from home. 

We took this opportunity to catch up with some colleagues across the institution to hear about their experiences of lockdown, how the new term will affect them in their role, and gather any hints and tips they’ve learned through this time that they’re keen to share!  

During Covid-19 I was placed on furlough from the 17th of March. At this time, I was attending college and continued to work from home on assignments and course work via Microsoft Teams.Alan Wilson, Apprentice Building Services Technician

As it was for many people, I found this to be challenging time. I have a young son and my partner works as a charge nurse in a hospital. Juggling being a full-time, stay-at-home dad, supporting my partner after a 12-hour shift working on the front line with Covid-19 ITU patients, whilst working on my studies was not easy. It was important for me during this time that I allowed myself an hour each day to exercise after buying some basic home gym equipment.

I returned to campus on the 13th of July after receiving a full health and safety induction. Initially I was apprehensive about returning to work after spending four months at home and ensuring that I had knowledge of what was required across all areas with regards to physical distancing and following government guidelines as well as measures introduced on campus. However, I needn't have worried as colleagues and management have ensured that transitioning back into working life on campus has been relatively straightforward.

My role has been slightly different since my return as I have been working alongside a qualified Building Services Technician, whereas as in my first and second years of my apprenticeship I was working more closely with the engineers. This has been an enjoyable experience as I have gained an insight into what my role with the University may look like in the future.

Going forward it will be great to see student numbers increasing across the campus as and when government guidelines allow. The role I have working on campus with the Building Services Technicians is to assist with the safe and efficient running of the buildings and a comfortable environment for the building occupants. Students being on campus and in the buildings is key to the University and the 'buzz' of having students back in increased numbers would be great to experience again.

Alan Wilson

Apprentice Building Services Technician


I am busy interviewing the Early Career Researchers (ECRs) who have taken part in the visNET project. We have been doing these remotely which has many positives: the ECRs are at home in a comfortable environment, I don’t have to travel between institutions, recording (with consent) is easy, no room booking and, best of all, there is an auto-transcription function within Zoom!Carla Cebula, Research Associate in Gender Barriers in Engineering Careers

On days without interviews I have been setting break reminders on Outlook and checking out #TakeBreaksMakeBreakthroughs on Twitter for inspirational break ideas. I have also been enjoying weekly virtual coffee breaks with the hiRACE research group who I have come to know much better over the course of lockdown and have been excellent company in a time of isolation.

Carla Cebula,

Research Associate in Gender Barriers in Engineering Careers


Now that my 3 1/2 year-old has returned to nursey it's hard to imagine what it was like trying to juggle childcare and work. However, I'm based in a team that was incredibly supportive and couldn't have done it without flexitime and knowing it was ok to spend time with my daughter during traditional core working hours. It's fair to say she took a liking to Zoom-bombing and if my camera was switched off during large meetings, it was probably because the playdough was out too!Michelle Crane, University Marketing Manager

As I'm still working from home (and will be for the foreseeable), I've found having some little habits to set me up for the week have really helped. For example, I meditate every morning and try to get out for fresh air to break up my morning and afternoon in the same way I would on campus. I try to change up my workspace by sitting at different tables in the house to complete certain tasks.  I also try to make sure that I have a "cuppa and catch up" in the diary every couple of weeks that's not about work and more about staying connected with colleagues as friends. For our team this is a long game so supporting one another, listening that bit more and being honest about when we need help is as important as the work itself.  

Michelle Crane

University Marketing Manager


I will be working from home for the foreseeable future, though occasionally I’m lucky enough to take a trip to campus for a site visit related to one of my projects – those days feel like a real treat!

Jessica McGrellis, Project Development Manager

My top three tips for working at home are:

  • Don’t bottle it up – make a call! When you’re in the office and you’ve had a challenging day, it’s really easy to touch base with a colleague straight away and have a therapeutic rant. When working from home there is a tendency to keep those challenges to yourself because we don’t have the same opportunities for a spontaneous tête-à-tête. Make the time to call a colleague!
  • John Williams and company – The thing I’ve liked least about working from home is the silence. Whilst I find music with lyrics distracting, blaring out some instrumental jams has been my energiser. The University has an instrumental playlist on its Spotify which I would recommend; it starts with Leaving Hogwarts, Concerning Hobbits and Rey’s Theme which are guaranteed to make the workday feel like more of an epic adventure!
  • Coffee, coffee and more coffee – let’s be honest, most of us are spending less money on coffee so may as well stock up the cupboards with some decent beans!

Whether working in the office or a café, I love being surrounded by a buzz of people. I am looking forward to being able to return to an energised environment where you can see and feel the impact of the work we do.

Jessica McGrellis

Project Development Manager

Thanks to all the above colleagues for taking the time to share something of their experience of the past few months and offer hints and tips we can all consider utilising to make our working day that little bit brighter. 

As we continue moving forward with our recovery plan and developing new ways of delivering our key activities it’s more important than ever that we continue to be mindful of our own health and wellbeing. A host of support resources and information remain available, and these can be accessed via the Staff Health and Wellbeing Information and Resources webpage. We encourage all colleagues to take a look and engage with the resources available.

We’ll be hearing from more colleagues over the coming weeks, along with sharing more information and resources to help support our staff as we continue to work through this uncertain time, so do keep your eyes open for more staff updates over the coming weeks as we move into the new term! 




First published: 10 September 2020