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Director’s Day in the Life: working from home

I used to do these regularly, when Library Day In The Life was a thing. I sort of liked it; it’s interesting to see, in a really clear way, what I do all day. Yesterday I worked from home for most of the day, for personal reasons related to tired-pregnant-joint-problems. It also happens that I hear from a variety of librarians that they work for library administrators who don’t “like” or “approve” or “support” working from locations other than the libraries.

To which I say, “Why not?”

In my experience, offering library staff the freedom to intermittently do their work in the way they see fit isn’t a detriment to productivity, to collegiality, to collaboration, or to accountability. On the flipside, forcing attendance at the library can result in more paid time off being used, in lowered productivity from people who could have been more effective in a different environment, and some serious crushing of morale when the administration is perceived as being inflexible and unsympathetic.

In my case, yesterday, I had a bad backache, and I knew that sitting in my office wasn’t going to help. I had my laptop, I have a home office with a loveseat in it, and I had no meetings scheduled until 2 pm. So I worked, comfortably arranged on pillows, until 1:00, had lunch, and then came to campus for my obligations. I was in touch with various staff members via email all day. I was, in point of fact, more available than on days in which I’m in meetings for 8 hours straight, but am technically “at work” because I’m on campus behind closed doors.

So what does a Director do when she works from home? Well, on this particular day, I:

  • Settled into the loveseat and pillow mountain around 9 with my laptop, iPad, phone, and a fruit smoothie.
  • Finished updating my Macbook Pro to Mavericks, updated Keynote, and set all other apps to update later while I eat lunch, because stop trying to turn iTunes off, I’m listening to that. (In case anyone cares, Kings of Leon, Only By The Night)
  • Composed, proofread, and sent an email to SAGE as part of our ongoing negotiations and discussion, and posted an excerpt here.
  • Responded to a meeting request from the Secondary Ed department.
  • Tidied up my calendar around some professional travel that’s upcoming in early December, and exchanged emails with a few staff members about ongoing operational things, ranging from HR paperwork to timesheets to setting up our end-of-semester Stressbusters for students.
  • Sent emails and stored records re: some honorarium reporting/State ethics requirements, and the Research Foundation re: Conflict of Interest forms for the grants on which I am PI.
  • Composed, proofread, and sent an email to SUNY admin about the proposed and under-development OneBib project.
  • Wrote a draft of a save-the-date for a new January faculty open house, and sent it to the library staff team working on the project for review and feedback.
  • Replied to, digitally signed, and approved travel paperwork requests from library staff.
  • Reviewed and approved the 2014-2016 undergrad catalog copy re: libraries.
  • Confirmed who of our librarians is attending the SUNY Council of Library Directors OpenSUNY Summit, and checked on registration from other SUNY libraries in preparation for a 12:00 conference call.
  • Confirmed via email that I was on the agenda to talk to the Student Government Association at 5, and so needed to brush up on the numbers I was presenting to them.
  • Took a 1 hour conference call about setting the agenda, approach, and objectives for the SCLD Open SUNY Summit on December 5.
  • Reheated some lunch, talked to my husband while he played with the dog outside for 15 minutes, and then gathered info for my afternoon meetings, and headed to campus.
  • Met with the Provost for an hour, discussing ongoing library stuffs.
  • Prepped for my evening appointment with the SGA, and started reading proposals regarding General Education revisions that will impact campus Information Literacy goals and expectations.
  • Left campus for an hour to go to the chiropractor.
  • Came back and met with the SGA, spending 30 minutes half listening to students debate a new career/internship fee, half reading more proposed revisions to the general education program, then making my pitch for $7,000 in one-time funding to augment the $20,000 commitment the Libraries have made to updating our computer lab furniture before January.

And then I went home again, arriving around 6:30.

So. Yes, I could have done much of that in my office, if not all of it. But I can clearly and fully say I would have done less of it, because my physical discomfort would have led to a reduction in productivity — either because I would have gotten cranky, or because I would need to stop and take breaks to get up and move around more often, or because I couldn’t focus through the pain. Instead, I was able to do what needed doing, comfortably and effectively.

That’s all true because I work for an institution that trusts us to do our jobs. I work hard to pass that trust down the hierarchy, working within our union strictures to give everyone the freedom to do their jobs well and in ways that work for them. I wish more of my peers did the same.

One Response to Director’s Day in the Life: working from home

  1. I appreciate you posting this, Jenica. I’m working through ways to give my staff a more flexible work schedule/environment, while also balancing the needs for walk-in appointments, staffing the old school desk, and the traditions of a small-town residential campus. I’d recommend to any of your readers to take a look at “Remote: Office Not Required” (http://amzn.com/B00C0ALZ0W ) which addresses many of the challenges of remote work. I found it very useful, but I also appreciate you putting many of the ideas into practice in this post.

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