Conference season- my thoughts

I’ve never made it to a union conference yet and this year is no different. I always mean to but I just end up ill or with family for Easter at church. This year was an ill year and I have spent a huge amount of time feeling like death-warmed-up this holiday (Luckily I’m back and alive ready for work again this week!)

One thing I’ve noticed out of the articles I’m reading is that recruitment and retention has, understandably, been a hot topic and a significant part of the discussion around it seems to be linked to workload and virtual working in particularly.

Emails. Emails are simultaneously the bane of our lives and also a piece of manna from heaven. The manna is convenience to work how, where and when you want to. The bane is the burden to work how, when and where other people want you too. There is a air of liberation that I can check my emails on days where I’m not at school, but if I don’t, then that’s OK. But there is a risk in some settings, and here I must say not mine, that if an email arrives, it must be responded to immediately. And this is where I agree with Michael Tidd, who views the expectations around the tool of email as problematic rather than the tool itself. Where emails can be answered within a reasonable timeframe rather than instantaneously, remote working can become a powerful and liberating tool. But where staff members feel their lives are invaded, it can be a crippling burden.

I am quite brutal with my workload these days; I wasn’t before and I struggled with it and ended up really very stressed and lacking firm boundaries with work. Nowadays, in my feistiness and ‘wiseness’ I don’t check my work emails late in the evenings, I don’t ever have them on my phone, I respond on my non-school work days if I have time but I don’t feel obliged to. That freedom to choose probably makes me more willing to check and be more in touch; it fosters a feeling that I am respected and valued at work.

The crux, I feel, of email and remote working, as part of wider workload considerations is respect, respect for staff members and their own private lives and space.

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