Dispatches from a Distance: Work/Work Balance

by Marcella Huggard

This post is part of Dispatches from a Distance, a series of short posts o provide a forum for those of us facing disruption in our professional lives, whether that’s working from home or something else, to stay engaged with the community. Now that so many of us are returning to full- or part-time on-site work, we’d like to extend this series to include reflections on reopening, returning to work, and other anxieties facing the profession due to COVID-19. There is no specific topic or theme for submissions–rather, this is a space to share your thoughts on current projects or ideas you’d like to share with other readers of the Electronic Records Section blog. Dispatches should be between 200-500 words and can be submitted here.

My special collections and archives library has started the reopening process, in preparation for the fall semester.  We’re not open to the public yet but expect we will be in a limited fashion for the fall, and in the meantime us staff in processing and conservation are coming into the building regularly to get back to working with the collections.

Transitioning to working strictly from home was one set of processes—physical, emotional, and mental. Transitioning to a hybrid situation is another set of processes. My staff are working approximately 50% in the office, 50% at home.  This means getting back to processing projects they haven’t really looked at since March, and it means continuing data cleanup projects they started in March, or starting new data cleanup projects from home. It means possibly inconsistent schedules depending on when the building is open (for some, this is good—variety is the spice of life!—for others, routine is essential and this is a disruption). It means adjusting to long stretches wearing a mask and getting sweaty extra quickly when schlepping boxes or archival supplies around. It means still not seeing some co-workers in person as we continue to work split shifts to lower the numbers of people in our building.

I’m taking our university administration’s direction to work from home as much as possible seriously, and I find that a lot of my regular work can be done remotely. Reviewing finding aids? Check. Ongoing data cleanup projects? Check. Research involving materials I’ve already retrieved from other archives and from electronically available resources? Check. Meetings with colleagues to plan projects and determine what we’ll do this fall?  Check. Professional reading, conferences, and workshops? Check. Data entry for processing projects? Check. This means extra disruption, though—“I’ll be able to get a full 4-hour shift in processing collections tomorrow afternoon,” I think happily to myself, until somebody schedules a meeting smack in the middle of what would have been that shift, and I’m adjusting yet again.

The guiding principles for this pandemic has been adaptability and flexibility, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

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