In summary

  • Professor Bruce Thompson shares what he’s been up to during lockdown and how he’s staying connected 

What's been your biggest challenge working from home? 

The groundhog-day effect. Everything is blended, days into nights, and weekdays into weekends. Apart from my Dean role, I am also heavily involved in national and international professional bodies, including a couple of COVID-19 taskforces, plus a significant media role. So, all these aspects of my working life are blending in with each other. It is really difficult to escape all things COVID, especially in Stage 4.

The other challenge is the blending of work and family/home life. When I was working on campus, there is quite a clear delineation between the two. Even though I work in the evenings at home and weekends, this work is quarantined. Also, the work I do from home are things I particularly enjoy, like writing papers of some aspect of science. Unfortunately, the family has seen the tougher aspects of the job.

On the work side, it’s just hard. It’s like working with your hands tied behind your back. A significant part of the job happens during corridor conversations and pre or post meeting discussions. That is gone now, so it is really difficult to gauge how staff are going - what is the mood? Current and future planning, group meetings.

Finally, I’m tired of having meetings over a computer screen. You miss all the nuance and non-verbals which makes it tiring.

What has pleasantly surprised you about working from home? 

I have a fabulous family. We all get along really well, so it has been wonderful to spend time together hanging out. Both kids are at university and my wife is a psychologist now practicing at home over telemedicine. We can all work independently, but at the same time, spend time with each other. We have coffee days and ‘lunch order’ days. My daughter is IT savvy, so I now have 24/7 IT support. My kids have discovered cooking! Way too many cakes.

The takeaway is that it is possible to do the job remotely, although it is trickier.

How are you staying connected with Swinburne and your colleagues? 

Through every form of communication that is available. It is common to have a phone conversation, then Microsoft Teams followed by Zoom. I also actively try ringing people up to see how they are going. The school chairs have been wonderful, having regular coffee meetings or end of day catch ups with their departments. I also meet with my senior executives up to a few times a week just to keep the communication channels gong. 

How do you switch off from work? 

Okay, that may be a little problem. In fact, it has been my biggest challenge. Before borders and greater Melbourne closed, I used to go to the farm for a day trip. We have 55 acres near Sandy Point which I am building on. Nothing like nail gun or going out on the tractor to focus the mind on something else. I am also a musician in another life, so it has been good to start practicing again. 

What’s your lockdown recommendation?

Try and quarantine or at least put boundaries around work and non-work. It’s really hard to do, and I feel for people with young children especially as childcare is not available for all now – that is really tough. Going for a walk is essential. One thing I did this weekend, as I can’t go to the farm and use the tractor, I actively gave myself permission to sit in the front lounge room in front of the open fire to just read or watch a Netflix episode of something. 

Have you stocked up on anything?

Arrrh, red wine?

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

Stay in contact. Although it is not the same, arrange regular Zoom catch ups with your mates. We have a bunch of friends we catch up with on a Friday night. Also, we have friends and relatives overseas that we have caught up with more over Zoom than before COVID, which has been great.

I have a number of friends who are struggling psychologically some significantly so. It is so important to keep in contact with them - just checking to make sure all is okay.

Bruce is featured in Swinburne's 2020 Open Day experience, Swintopia, a virtual open world that lets you try uni life on for size.
Check out Swintopia now

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