Like most health libraries, and in line with government advice to work from home where possible, my service adopted some remote working during the first COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020. On the whole, we adapted well to working from home – we took issues with technology, pets or children in our stride, and remained very productive. However, following some recent staff changes we felt it was right to review our working patterns and explore what might work better in the future. At the end of February, we conducted a very basic email survey of library colleagues to gauge some views on what was happening elsewhere to help inform our working from home patterns moving forward.
We received 35 responses from a range of library staff working in the north of England (thank you to those who took time to respond). Practice and opinions were varied, some welcomed the opportunity to work from home and others were desperate to return to on-site working:
“I hate working from home. It is a home not a workplace”.
The majority of concerns related to potential loss of library space, something my own service experienced when a study room was taken over (temporarily) for office use:
“We did lose a silent Study Room at one site which is taking a lot of work to reclaim”
“If librarians are not onsite there is a danger of losing the space […]. I think home working will lead to post cuts when the financial pressure ramps up for savings”.
Benefits were often related to finding it easier to concentrate at home where normal library distractions weren’t a factor and having a quiet space to provide on-line training:
“We will maintain this for work/life balance, and it also aids focused work and concentration”
“I am both eager to get back on site, yet also relishing some aspects of home working. The ability to concentrate on a difficult piece of work, like a complicated lit search for example”
“Almost impossible to find space in shared office to do sessions over Teams without background noise.”
Many colleagues remarked that time spent travelling is an issue with agile working providing a better work life balance:
“a blended approach makes sense; our service is so geographically distant saves time travelling between locations”
“Aids my work life balance, saves time and energy on commute, aids concentration”.
Overall there was a slight majority in favour of a mix of home and on-site working once COVID-19 restrictions are no longer a factor, this would be my own preference. I especially enjoyed the ‘green’ benefits when regular commuting stopped. As one responder put it:
“We have found benefits in working from home during Covid for the service that we don’t want to throw away”.
Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust