Kevin Corrigan, who started with the Swiss multinational company Novartis nine years ago, fresh out of college, said being ‘in the office’ without leaving his home has given him stolen moments with his son Harry at a critical time of his development.
“It’s something you don’t get a lot of the time if you are working every day of the week. Obviously we have our weekends together and there is decent exposure there but it is nothing like the full-on everyday contact we have had in this situation.”
Kevin who is Projects and Assets Officer in the International Service Laboratory and also a Site Communicator role for Novartis Integrated Services said working from home can be challenging in a number of ways, but by being flexible and adapting to the situation, you can hit a balance between your professional and personal worlds that benefits both.
“I think definitely there are benefits there in terms of work-life balance and it seems to be the way a lot of companies are going and Novartis is no different.” At the beginning, Kevin said he was playing catch up in terms of organising his home office.
“I was at the kitchen table for the first few weeks, but eventually saw sense and invested in a desk upstairs away from the bustle. We have a nice view over the city and countryside from up there so it’s a pleasant environment and is usually toddler-free! That said, a more dedicated office space would definitely help segregate work and home life, as it can sometimes feel like the laptop is following me around the house.”
The Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science undergraduate from Dublin City University, who is married to Lisa, who is a GP, said his situation has been fairly manageable in that, his wife’s hours are a little flexible.
However, Kevin said between the dog and the toddler his house can be organised chaos at times.
“Harry is really good, but he is very boisterous and you can’t negotiate with a two-year-old if you have calls to take and things to be doing there is a natural conflict there and a little bit of guilt as well."
To combat the demand on his time around the home, Kevin explained that he switched to working early in the morning and late in the evening at the beginning of lockdown while getting used to the home setup.
“I found that worked quite well. You need to keep people informed but everyone took it in their stride.” For Kevin, working from home can involve between two and seven conference calls a day, from local to global level, in lieu of the normal daily meetings that would occur on site.
“I am managing a regulatory project at present that draws on my Quality Assurance knowledge so there’s quite a bit of variety in my day-to-day work.
“Supporting the labs, overseeing the implementation of new instrumentation, capital projects, managing local communications and assisting the site leadership are all part of my routine workload. "
In terms of the conference calls, Kevin said they are a lifeline to the site for him.
“The calls could be as short as half an hour or as long as two hours. It does take a noticeable chunk out of your day, but they are important.” The Novartis employee said that since starting remote working, he has become accustomed to young children joining some of his calls.
“I have one toddler so I can definitely empathise with people who have more than one and are trying to look after them while on a call and presenting and things like that. It's a regular occurrence these days. It’s been hilarious to hear the chatter of kids, butting in on normally quite serious teleconferences. It adds a human touch, and reminds us, that work isn’t the only priority in people’s lives. Every day you hear a bit of chatter in the background.”
A little annoyance with the new set up is the increased effort involved in every communication.
“Asking someone beside you a question, or showing them something on your computer, now needs to happen via email, with screenshots, which all takes time. Tracking someone down in person is also now impossible – you need to catch them at their computer, or else the task has to wait.
“The new hours everyone is working, it can be tricky to make sure you can meet everyone and sometimes you have to rearrange meetings.
“You have to make a real conscious effort find somebody and to give them a ring or to drop them an email with whatever you re trying to do, there is no snap your fingers and someone can help you out with something. It’s much more laborious, these simple interactions that we take for granted.”
Another difficulty has been supporting video calls from home.
“My broadband isn’t as robust as I would have thought it was in the past, these video calls take up a lot of bandwidth and figuring that out took some time. It’s really frustrating when productivity takes a hit, because something won’t load or the broadband disconnects.”
While for some, the whole world has been turned on its head, Kevin feels, for him, things have been standing still.
“Change is the one thing that I don’t feel has happened! There’s a strong sense of the country being locked in stasis for the last number of months. Once I established a working routine it did not really vary, and even now it’s hard to believe that I scarcely left the house for such a long time. Getting out for walks with the family was an important break and our garden has never looked so good!”
While Kevin is enjoying working from home, he said contact with colleagues is certainly something he misses.
“Virtual meetings are a great tool, but you can’t beat face-to-face interactions, in the canteen, or hallway.” In terms of being a part of the solution for Covid-19, Kevin said he is proud to be apart of a company that is actively involved in working on medicine that can help ease the symptoms of Coronavirus.
“Novartis has been very active during the pandemic. Novartis has supported the community in a number of ways: we’re trialling some of our existing medicines for potential treatments for coronavirus, and we have supported frontline healthcare workers by donating PPE.”
Kevin said working from home is a necessary adaptation in the current situation and while he has adapted to the ‘new normal’ in the future, he would like to return to the office in a part-time basis.
“There is a growing demand in the workforce for employers to demonstrate their flexibility with respect to lifestyle, it’s certainly something I’d love to implement into my week, as my experience of working from home has been positive overall.”