In summary

Swinburne staff have implemented some creative ways to stay connected while working from home. Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Sally McArthur, shares how she is managing the challenge. 

What's been your biggest challenge working from home? 

Keeping motivated, not so much on the work front, but more on the life front – keeping exercising, eating well and trying to sleep at sensible times. It has also been tough as a single person right now as my only regular physical human contact is with my local café where I get the occasional take away coffee or in the supermarket – and I am tending to overshare with them!

What has pleasantly surprised you about working from home? 

I love not having to commute to work every day and being able to take an hour off here and there for a walk or having a walking meeting. I was also able to have my dad come and stay with me for a few weeks of respite care in the first stage 3 period which was just great – something I could never do if I was going to work each day.

How are you staying connected with Swinburne and your colleagues?

  • Check in meetings three mornings a week with my Medical Device Partnering Program Team
  • Weekly meetings with each of my PhD students, wider Bioengineering group
  • Meetings each Monday morning with talks from PhD students and post docs each week on Teams and then a weekly check in with everyone at CSIRO

We have WhatsApp running for both of my teams where we put general chat and updates on our day, photos from our exercise walks, cats and family. I have also been running the Pandemic Prime Time Seminar series with the Australasian Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Society (ASBTE, @ASBTE1). We have been getting different EMCR leaders and PhD students from across Australia and New Zealand to present each week. The sessions are held every Wednesday at 1pm in WA, 3pm on the Eastern seaboard and 5pm in NZ (Primetimes…, get it?). This has brought together at least 60 people each week for the last four months and the sense of community and connection has been just fabulous. There have been a number of new project ideas developed!

To take a break from work, Sally enjoys walking in the Parkville wetlands near Royal Park along Moonee Ponds Creek on the Capitol Trail and at Flemington Racecourse (pictured above).

How do you switch off from work (mentally/physically)? 

This is always tough and something I am not good at, at all. I am very lucky to have a separate study, so I try to close the door on it and walk away, but you can’t keep your mind from churning on things. I am trying to get 5km of walking in most days which at least gets me out of doors. It was tough going back to the gym and then having to go back to the streets, but I have found some lovely wetlands around where I live and had a chance to explore all around home. I had already started a meditation class when this all hit, so it has moved to Zoom and I am really trying to implement some of that (calmer) karma in my day alongside extra support from the Smiling Mind app, which is always my go to when I need to wind down.

What’s your lockdown recommendation? (favourite dinner to cook at home, podcast, book, TV show/movie, social media follow…)   

Kittens make most things better – I finally got two Coco and Lola in March and they have been a (slightly stinky and scratchy) joy. I love having them join in my Zoom calls – particularly with Coco’s antics on the fan in my office – she is an acrobat!

Have you stocked up on anything? (coffee, chickpeas, puzzles...) 

Shoes and earrings – all about having some sort of #isobling for my Zoom calls – all part of feeling a little more engaged particularly when I am chairing a meetings or workshop. Lipstick and earrings can make all the difference – that works even in non-pandemic times, but I can have lycra and Uggs on under the desk with very glam earrings and some lippy visible to everyone else and I feel that I have my stuff together and might even be projecting that to the outside world. 

Any advice for those who may be struggling during these unique times?  

Don’t fight it – if you are having a flat day it is OK, just try not to have two in a row and if you do have two or three, talk to someone. Make sure you have one or two people you know you can reach out to. If you are not sure, just ask for help. We have a deal in my teams that we need to be open about what is going on – we all have days we would like to stay under the duvet, but when other people check in on you it can really make a difference. This is not life as normal, everyone is under enormous additional stress – even if you don’t recognise it all the time. It is OK, just do what you can each day. The key thing is to keep on swimming. 

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