Since the first lockdown back in March, the doctoral offices in the Computer Science department have been completely off-limits. However, the offices opened up again a few weeks ago and it has been possible to work on campus and at other university locations in that time as well.
Originally, I was reluctant to make yet another change to how I work after finally finding a suitable compromise at home. I came to campus last week to try it out for the first time, and the title I was going to use for this post then was Another Adjustment: The Problem(s) With Working On Campus. But, I am here again today and, I have to be honest, I am really enjoying being able to work on campus again.
Of course, working on campus comes with more compromises than before: Only one person is allowed in the kitchen at any one time; there is virtually no private space for a meeting at the moment; and access to 'your desk' is inconsistent at best, because of the way the rota needs to be managed, and impossible at worst if you are one of the unlucky ones whose desk is not allowed to be used.
On the other hand, working on campus does bring a much-needed change in environment and a quiet space to concentrate on work. There are no distractions, like laundry or the games console, which can help to focus the mind. Striking a home-work balance when working from home can be challenging, so having a dedicated place to work helps give a bit of breathing space.
That said, there is also the opportunity for a welcome distraction when on campus: Today, I bumped into some peers I have not seen for months who were also working in the offices, and we went for coffee and a stroll around campus to catch up. It was such a wonderful novelty! These moments of serendipity contribute a lot to a feeling of community, which has been difficult to maintain online.
Working across sites right now does require a bit more advance planning, for example, making sure not to schedule any meetings that would disturb others. However, I am starting to realise that my pre-lockdown working pattern of being on campus once a week is easier to re-establish than I originally thought. This might not be the case for others who were used to being on campus more often, but I would recommend that everyone tries it at least once, to see how they get on.
Personally, I feel that I have regained a sense of belonging somewhere and having a shared experience of 'being a Computer Science student' since starting to work on campus again, which is something that gives me energy and motivation. I appreciate the hard work that has gone on to make it possible to work in the department again, so a big thank you to the people involved in making our offices a safe place to study and work for those who need it.