Life in the Home Office

The world has changed so much since our last edition of Scenes. Last month, I had drafted an article around the first of March about staying healthy during spring travel. The article including some tips about avoiding the flu, and just barely touched on COVID-19. By the timeAdmissions team videoconference we got ready to publish Scenes in the middle of the month, most of us were working from home, classes were transitioning to a virtual format, and students were moving out of the residence halls. Things certainly changed fast!

Almost all of us have transitioned to a remote work environment, which is a big change for many of us (especially us extroverts). You may be working in your living room on a laptop when you’re used to have a desktop with multiple monitors. You may be trying to get work done while also home-schooling and caring for young children. You may be trying to reach your students via Zoom while sharing a shaky internet connection with a partner or roommate. Most of us didn’t sign up for this, and we had to make the transition fast. It’s been a stressful time! The Pubs & Marketing Committee wanted to share more with you about how we’re handling this situation and give you our advice (which you can take or leave) about getting through this situation with grace.

Central College’s Kayla Van Wyk shared her perspective about working from admissions videoconference

“I think one of the tips I’ve found helpful is allowing myself to take tiny breaks throughout the day. It seems like working from home has an added pressure of proving that you can get the same amount of work done as you can from the office. I’ve had to realize that taking breaks actually allows me to be more productive. Plus, there are often things happening in the office that would distract me, so it ends up balancing out! Accepting that has helped me keep my focus without getting down on myself.”

UNI’s Jordan Corwell has an added stress to her work-from-home situation – a new baby! Jordan shared more about her experience over the past few weeks.

“There are a few reasons I chose not to be a stay at home mom, these past few weeks have proven that my decision to work outside the home was the best one for me. I've never underestimated the stay at home mom role - but my goodness is the challenge maximized when you're also mom working from homeworking remotely full-time, too. I am so fortunate to be able to be at home, isolated with my little man during this time. He's so cute and typically easy going - but he's too young to understand "mommy has a meeting" or "mommy has to work".  Therefore, we've made a few necessary adjustments. My husband is an "essential" employee so he isn't around to help during the day. I now work an nontraditional time frame; I maximize certain parts of the day to make our situation work. My mother and mother-in-law are able to help some as their businesses are closed this month, so I pick those days for when I have more meetings or a virtual presentation. Nap time = call time. I work early in the morning and after he goes to bed. I keep my computer up in case of important updates or questions even when I'm not "working" my 8 hours for the day. I am able to flex through the week to make my schedule what it needs to be to succeed. It's so important to have that open communication with your supervisor and team. Just because I am a mom, doesn't mean I am working less. In fact, I'm working more to prove myself. And as this continues, I'll be working even harder to find that work/life balance. This is my “new normal.” A messier house, a slightly more tired mom (I blame teething), but a fortunate and adorable face to make it all worth it!”

Personally, I’ve found that it’s crucial to be able to laugh at yourself and with your colleagues. My seventy-five pound dog decided to jump onto my lap in the middle of a staff meeting last week. I was mortified, but my colleagues found it entertaining!

Many of us are using technology like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype to connect with our students and with each other. While we’re all grateful that these technologies exist, they don’t come without their problems. Kirkwood’s Mark Ash said that most of his Zoom meetings go like this (watch and laugh!):

At the University of Iowa, we’ve been offering Zoom webinars and opportunities to connect one-on-one with an admission counselor. One tip that I’ve learned is that it’s really helpful to have a few colleagues help answer questions in the chat feature if I’m giving a presentation. Kayla Van Wyk said that Central College’s marketing office put together some nice Central themed backgrounds and posted them on our website for faculty, staff and students to use during meetings! There are lots of ways that we can still show our school spirit while connecting virtually.

Mobile birthday party

One of my very favorite stories to come from this situation was from Iowa State University. One of their colleagues, Faye Draper, celebrated her 50th work anniversary in the Office of Admissions on April 6. In the past fifty years, Faye has helped process thousands of student transcripts, with more to come! Colleagues did not want to miss this important milestone. 

Jen Hacke Sass said, “Because we could not be together to celebrate, staff organized a parade by Faye’s house work at home attireon her anniversary. Over 50 vehicles (full of family members, pets and decorations) circled Faye’s block several times honking and cheering for the backbone of our office.”

What a fun and creative way to celebrate such an amazing milestone! This is a great example of the ways in which we can be there for each other and celebrate the colleagues we love, even when we have to physically distant.

Adriene Sietsema from Ellsworth Community College summed it all up well.

“Being flexible, showing grace and understanding, and thinking of new, creative ways to stay connected with our students that we may not have done in the past is a new, fun challenge for us.”

We’re all in this together. Be sure to show yourself some grace, connect with your colleagues, and be there for your students.

Be safe and be well.

--The Publications & Marketing Committee

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