My Office, My Lair

This post is my second post of the weekly #EDUBLOGSCLUB, which you may sign up for by clicking here.  Here’s how it works: After you sign up, you receive an email each Tuesday with a new blog prompt. Write a post in response to that prompt within the week, share it on social media with #EDUBLOGSCLUB, leave a comment on the club blog with a link to your post. In the process, gain knowledge of the blogging process, increase your confidence, learn from peers, and develop your PLN! How can you say no to that? 

I work for CSU Channel Islands, a university located about 400 miles from my home. I work from home by choice and I love it. This is not my first remote position and from experience I have learned that not all remote work experiences are the same. Working from home is not the right fit for everyone. It’s not the right fit for every position. And it’s not the right fit for every organization.

I am a person who enjoys solitude. And I have an amazing team that not only supports my unique position, but sees it as a positive! Having a remote person on our team has enabled us to see the faculty development and support offerings we provide through the lens of someone who isn’t on campus — which describes a growing number of faculty. Time and place should not be barriers to faculty who want to improve their teaching and their students’ learning.

Humanizing the Remote Work Experience

Remote employment is on the rise and for good reason. A survey by TINYpulse (PDF link) found that 91% of remote workers feel more productive when they are working at home. The same survey showed that remote workers are happier and feel more valued than workers of all types, but have less established relationships with their peers.  That last part is important to organizational development and employee retention. Higher education has not ventured very far into hiring remote workers, but this may change in the future.  So understanding how to do it well is a critical conversation — and also one that keeps higher education connected to the realities our students will face in the workplace.

Working remotely can feel isolating and it can be tougher to form relationships with peers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m part of a wonderful team who is committed to experimenting and ensuring we maintain a human connection across distance. We meet in person at least once per semester, but we “see” each other regularly (in 2d). These experimentations, by the way, are an important part of providing support for faculty who teach across a distance (which is a big part of what I do).

Here is a brief video I made last year that illustrates how my team works together. The video also lists some of the applications we use regularly to communicate and manage our tasks: Slack, Zoom, Wunderlist, and the Kubi telepresence robot (although, honestly, we haven’t used Kubi much recently).

With that said, working from home does require a more concerted effort to disconnect and be present. I know I’m not alone when I say this is something I work on…a lot. Also, being remote can cause barriers for me to get more involved across campus, particularly when a workplace is not used to working digitally (which is an issue my team is tackling!). It also limits my opportunities for career advancement within the organization. For now, however, the benefits of working from home far outweigh the drawbacks for this employee.

My Lair

A lair is defined as “a secluded or hidden place.” In some ways, my home office is not hidden at all. In fact, you’ll find glimpses of it on YouTube, Twitter, and in my daily Zoom sessions with my colleagues. Yet, most people only see one (well constructed) view of my office and only two of my colleagues have actually been in my office (in person). I thought it would be fun to share these two views of my office.

1: Webcam View

I have an HD webcam that provides a high quality image of me for those I interact with via live and asynchronous video. I have a window in my office just above my webcam, which provides frontal lighting. As many of you know, frontal light is key to ensuring you don’t appear in shadow when recording from your webcam. I also have mindfully hung photos behind me so the webcam view of my office is aesthetically pleasing.

Webcam View of Office
Webcam view of my office
2. Behind the Scenes View

This is what my office looks like from the doorway peering into the room. It is a small space. In fact, it wasn’t in existence when we bought the house. After two years of working from a corner in my bedroom, we made the decision to make use of a narrow, long area of our second story that had no floor. Before my office was built, we had a high ceiling upon walking through our front door. Now there is a lower ceiling, which provides the floor to my office.

My office is small, but I love it. I painted it a calming color (“Mindful Grey”) and have inspirational quotes placed on my wall, which I like to read on difficult days. I try, at all costs, to avoid printing things. If it’s on paper, it’s lost. I have a healthy snack on hand (right now, pistachios). In this view you can also see the window and artwork I referred to above. The second monitor allows me to keep Slack open and visible at all times, which is my team’s main communication portal. When I leave my desk, my phone is with me and Slack notifies me of incoming messages. I’m also currently working on starting a new podcast and in this photo you can see my Yeti mic on a boom arm with a purple pop filter. I have a USB mic on my desk, which I use for voice-only recordings (like VoiceThread).

Photo of my home office
                                                          Behind the scenes view of my office

That’s my lair.

Do you work remotely? What works well for you and what doesn’t?

16 Comments to “My Office, My Lair”

  1. WOW.

    Loved this post Michelle! I want to be just like you when I grow up! 😉

    Seriously though, I have thought I might be well suited for work like yours, I just haven’t found an opportunity for it. I do believe remote/online work might be in my future though. Any tips for locating positions like yours?

    I really enjoy the way you present information. Your writing style is great and you are so thorough! The video blew my mind (I subscribed to your channel on YouTube). The Kubi robot looks so cool! (Even though you don’t use it much anymore. Why is that by the way?) I paused the video when you showed the apps from your phone and downloaded a couple of those too. I did notice your video is nearly a year old and I hadn’t even heard of a few of those apps, not to mention Kubi and I like to think of myself as tech-forward! I love learning from others and picking up cool new tips, tricks, apps, etc!

    I am really enjoying the Edublogger experience so far, I get to meet and interact with inspiring folks like you!

    1. Hi Melanie. I wish I had tips for finding remote work. It’s not easy, *especially* in education. I found my home after developing a relationship through consulting. It allowed us to determine we had a fit (on both sides), which was key.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the video (and thanks for subscribing to my channel). We were actively using the Kubi a year ago and had some challenges with it. It was brand new then and I’m sure those quirks have been ironed out, but in the meantime, I guess we just moved on. When I Zoom into my meetings at work, my image displays on a big screen tv (I know, weird). But it seems to work well for us and is a bit quicker to set up than the Kubi. We’ll keep playing with new things though, cause that’s what we do.

      If you have any other questions, please just ask. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

    2. Hi Melanie, I’m the person who hired Michelle (and so proud of it!) so I’ll give you my perspective. Until hiring remote employees becomes commonplace, my suggestion is that you 1) become very good at what you do, and 2) make sure people know about it. And, if you want to follow Michelle’s example, 3) refuse to relocate! When we hired her, the main motivation was that we wanted to add Michelle to our team – but very quickly we realized all the positive things about the arrangement (and some of the negatives). So if you have skills that people want, and do something that can be done effectively at a distance, it could happen for you too. Good luck!

      1. Thank you for your input Michael, it was very helpful! It’s inspired me to be more visible with what I do in the hopes of one day doing work similar to Michelle’s. Relocation will be a firm no for me for some time as I have a family and a home where I am presently. No job I could land could possibly take the place of two incomes and family. 🙂

  2. Tam

    I really enjoyed reading your blog and especially watching the video on working remotely. I’m just starting a position that will allow me to work in schools, from an office or from home. Your blog was interesting. Thank you – isn’t this Edublogsclub stuff good 🙂

    1. Hi Tam. Thanks for your comment. Congrats on your new position. So, will you have the option to go to school or be home? How will you make this decision? What is your home set up like? Yes, I’m enjoying EduBlogsClub, but need to make more time to comment. These weeks go so quickly!

  3. Beth and I both work remotely as adjuncts, and love it. I have been remote for almost 9 years and Beth for four. I tell my friends that I am virtually unemployable at this point.

    I have a very nice setup. Two 27 inch monitors (I have a third monitor, but it takes up too much room on my desk), a rack of audio equipment, mics, and studio monitors, which we use for our podcast (plus it makes a great sound system to play music when I want to cut lose, which I could never do in my office at the university). I use a webcam for Skype with my students which is setup on a small tripod and stored behind one of the monitors. Beth has a nice office with a similar setup (without all the sound equipment), but she has an adjustable desk so she can stand or sit when she is working.

    We joke about not getting out of the house enough. It is not unusual for both of us to be home for three or four days at a time without going anywhere. Sometimes we go out just to go have a cup of coffee somewhere and talk.

    1. Yep. I can relate. My husband works from home too. People ask how we do it, but we are both so busy that we only interact in the mornings and then again at dinner time. We try to schedule lunches out together once per month.

      Thanks for your comment, Jim.

  4. Doug Belshaw often talks about.wprking from.home as the future. I feel.that although many organisations could, they don’t allow it due to issues with trust. Wondering how you get around the issue?

    1. Hi Aaron. Much like online classes are designed, my efforts are evaluated by my contributions as opposed to me being in a place for a particular amount of time. Moving from seat time to meeting objectives is happening in education and will need to happen in organizations too for remote employees to be accepted mainstream. Trust is certainly crucial on both sides though. I see trust as the foundation. That’s the best I can do to answer your question. Thanks for your comment.


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