Oh, how the world has changed since I last shared on here! It was late 2019 and, I was eager and excited to attend CSCW 2019. I had a great time there, and ideally, I would have loved to pen my post-conference thoughts. I may still do at some point. But, after that, in early 2020, the A pandemic true to the word. Immediately our work, our lives, our realities changed.
I chose to work at home a week before it was nationally mandated as a personal choice. Each week we thought it would be over soon… by summer, surely… by Christmas… before we hit one year? So much changed this time, but we are still living in a pandemic state.
I also experienced my first pregnancy and had a baby during this time. He was born in October 2020 and has changed my world even more than I had anticipated. He has been born into a world that has monumentally shifted. I had a pregnancy like no other, and I had a labour and delivery like no other, (again a topic I may write about at some point). I then had a maternity leave that was not as anticipated.
In review, everything changed, and all our expectations and anticipations were not as expected.
The phrase “new normal” was used a lot about people’s lived experiences. I thought great. I am well placed to understand and contribute thought to these phenomena, having just published a paper exploring people’s perceptions and experiences of a new normal. It became a bit of a buzz world and normalised in itself.
We were working at home whilst pregnant in a not ideal space for my husband and me to work full time. However, I believe we were so privileged compared to others. We had jobs that continued, we did have space, and we also had some outside space to walk through in nature. So many did not have these little basic luxuries. My work did suffer. My body ached, my mind got tired, and it seemed work was not progressing. Before I went on maternity leave in those seven months, I did not believe my PhD had progressed enough. I started to worry and stress that I would have to return and complete my entire thesis in a short time, and after all my hard work and intention, it would not be of a standard I had anticipated. Fortunately, there is some consensus around this, and I have been granted a short extension to mitigate this; however, I don’t think three months can make up for the complete upheaval of our worlds and working practice, but we must do as much as we can!
I returned to work in October 2021, and it was a shock to the system. Not only is my brain divided into life at home and life at work, but everyone around me has found new ways of working independently, and I am returning to a completely different department. In 18 months, people were forced to find ways of working well that did not include office-based peer collaboration. This is a crucial part of our PhD experience, especially at the final leg to get each other over the finish line.
Online programmes such as Slack, Teams, Zoom and even Whatsapp groups are all there. Still, the level of engagement had markedly decreased if we compare participation to when we had in-person working in offices.
I am attempting to foster some level of collaborative support through the creations of Team specific channels for those of us aiming to finish our PhD within the following year. I have also been trying to start the conversation in the PhD only channels. It is a great shame that PhD students who have begun their study at this time will not benefit or know of the tremendous collaborative department we once were. However, there are still options to foster these affordances in new ways, and that is something we all have to put effort into realising.
Here I am, six months away from finishing my thesis, with eight chapters to write, review and finalise. I hope I can get there and succeed. I have many things I am working on simultaneously, and I am so excited about my next steps in academia!