The Benefits of Hybrid Working
Rose Leek and Pippa McLernon
Hybrid working is the most I have enjoyed work. I only had three months of pre-Covid office life after returning from maternity leave before everything changed. At the start of the first lockdown, I juggled part-time work with my then 14-month-old daughter. With her nursery closed and my husband in a job that can’t involve remote working, it was in hindsight a surreal period of parenting and work constantly overlapping. I was working for a different university at the time, but just as I have since found with Bath, the sense of a community easily extended itself to connecting online. I was able to work flexibly without judgment for needing, and enjoying, time with my daughter.
When childcare reopened, I was able to see the full benefits that come from home working. With time saved from commuting, and time at home during a lunch break, tasks could be done early in the day before work, laundry put out at lunch time, dinner prepped. Changes that seem minor and mundane but create more family time in the evenings and weekends.
As a family we decided to relocate from Surrey to Somerset in 2020. Remote working gave me the flexibility to start at the University of Bath without the immediate pressure of finding a home and new childcare. I was able to just focus on becoming familiar with my new role. Now in a hybrid setup, the benefits continue. Only commuting once a week from Bristol to Bath I can afford to take the train, reducing one car on the road and gaining some free exercise. I continue to gain time back on my working from home days, which keeps contributing to quality family time elsewhere.
I enjoy my weekly visit to the campus. It’s a reminder of the wider community, a chance to be more visible to students and the opportunity to get to know my colleagues better in person. Hybrid working also allows me to recharge. I’m someone who benefits from quiet time on my own to rebuild my energy so the balance of working in solitude at home - alongside getting to socialise on campus - is perfect. As a parent, a partner, an employee and an individual, hybrid working is the best balance I’ve experienced in my working life.
I secured a new role in the Faculty of Engineering & Design just before departing on maternity leave in March 2020. Little did I know that a global pandemic was about to be upon us and just 10 days after leaving the campus full of hope for the year ahead, we would all be in an unprecedented state of lockdown - even our TV screens reminding us to #stayathome. This was the context in which I became a parent for the first time, my son born in the early days of that first national lockdown. It was a time of huge anxiety for all of us; with national guidelines changing by the hour and everyone clamouring for more information each time a government press conference was scheduled.
The ensuing period of my maternity leave was spent largely in a state of lockdown and as the year wore on I became increasingly isolated. By the time February 2021 rolled around and my start day approached, I couldn’t wait. Of course, I was apprehensive about commencing a new role remotely but the opportunity to do so was also a lifeline for me after an extremely difficult year in which my resilience had been tested to its limits.
And so I returned…plunged into a world of Teams calls, handovers and meeting new colleagues. The first few months were a blur, an exhausting flurry of video calls and absorbing new information. I never felt disadvantaged though by navigating it all remotely and as time went on, I realised this way of working was actually aiding my transition back into the workplace. My confidence was low after the whirlwind struggle of adapting to parenthood - especially in such isolating circumstances - and in the comfort of my own home and with support and encouragement from my new Faculty I began to feel that I was regaining a sense of balance in my life.
The next phase of the journey has been transitioning to a hybrid working pattern. With gentle exposure, initially just coming in for half days, I have settled into this routine and can appreciate the benefits that both in-person and remote working bring. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I feel so blessed to have more control over my own work/life balance - spending more precious time with my husband and son whilst also being able to deliver in my professional life.
Despite the infinite number of challenges the pandemic brought upon all of us, the opportunity to work remotely and on a more flexible basis has been a huge benefit to me both as an individual and a working parent. The trust and support from my line manager and fellow colleagues has been invaluable over the course of this year, empowering me to be creative and confident in how I work and in turn, how I manage other people. It has gone a long way to helping me rebuild my mental health and wellbeing, after an incredibly challenging eighteen months.