As Spring Quarter comes to an end, I can’t help but look back on my experience of working my campus job remotely. In February 2020, I began working as a front desk worker at the office of the Muir College Writing Program, also known as MCWP. My duties included greeting students or visitors and providing them assistance with any questions they had, providing office support to the instructors and staff, and assisting with data entry of excel sheets, word documents, and more. With all the duties assigned to me, I had to be very confidential since I was handling documents with staff and student information. Including me, three student workers in total worked the front desk in order to cover the entire time the office was open for the week. I was lucky that both my co-workers were the friendliest people and made my transition into the job much easier.
When news came that the school would be closing down, there was much uncertainty on whether the office would remain open. During those last days of Winter Quarter, I stressed out about the uncertainty of my job, figured out how my online finals worked, and worried about the impending pandemic. Once the news came that Spring Quarter was going to be completely online, I was stuck between going back home or staying in San Diego to work limited hours at the office — if it remained open. Luckily, my boss was able to keep all three of us working from the comforts of our home. However, because we were no longer in the office, our hours were cut, but we were given special COVID-19 admin hours that could be added onto our time card as hours we would have worked if we were in the office. We were then required to download many programs onto our computer in order to access the MCWP files. Such programs included Microsoft applications and Google Drive file stream, which greatly impacted the iCloud storage on my Macbook. Plus, because I was still technically new, I was still learning how the files were organized and where documents were placed — adding another challenge to the process. It was a lengthy process to get the newly downloaded programs to work on my Macbook as well as getting access to MCWP software. I found myself having to email Information Technology services at least 20 times.
Microsoft Teams was the platform we used to communicate about what we each did on the day we worked; we called it our Daily Reports. I was scheduled to work Mondays and Wednesdays, and I started my day by calling my boss to receive instructions on what I was to work on during my shift. Until I was able to resolve my technical issues, my duties were fairly easy going. I worked on data entry that involved information about Spring 2020 logistics and planning for Fall 2020. I honestly never realized how much work and how many documents are required when planning a course. After days of talking back and forth with IT services, I was able to work with no problems. We even got a new project to work on: all three of us student workers would be given access to the Virtual Advising Center to assist with the plethora of incoming questions from students regarding MCWP. We were trained and given instructions on how to respond to students.
I can honestly say that working from home has its perks. I would wake up 45 minutes before my shift, drink a cup of coffee with sweet bread, and work in the comfort of sweats and a baggy t-shirt. Working from home saves a lot of travel time and I can use that time to my liking. And, because I am at home, I’m grateful my mom cooks us breakfast, which beats my usual cereal.
Yet, working from home can definitely have its stressful moments. Many times I suffered from lack of a good wifi signal, either because my family was using the wifi at the same time or the reception wasn’t good, which happens a lot in my area. This made me nervous about not being able to complete my assigned tasks and scared of being perceived as a bad worker. The constant back and forth communication between my boss and other co-workers definitely helped me manage work that was still new to me because I didn’t get a chance to fully learn the ropes of the job. However, even before I started working remotely, I was very stressed out about all that I needed to do and download in order to have the right tools to work. It became another stressor aside from planning my Spring 2020 courses. I felt that I was doing a lot of work in order to do my job and because it took a long time for things to work properly for me, I secretly hoped my boss and co-workers wouldn’t view me as ‘holding back’ the workflow. But I would remind myself that because I was new, it was ok to make mistakes and ask questions.
My experience of working remotely was certainly illuminating and revealing to me. I liked the comfort of working from my bedroom and not having the stresses of a “real-life” work environment. I did enjoy the extra time to sleep in because I didn’t have to get up early and ride the bus to campus. But it was also challenging and stressful for me. The fear of not doing something correctly and letting people down loomed over me on each shift, increasing my anxiety of trying to be a good worker. I also experienced technical issues that were hard to solve and were a lengthy process to get them resolved. But I learned that constant communication with your co-workers and boss most definitely helps things run smoothly. I’ll honestly say that I sort of missed being in a “real-life” work environment. Working remotely may be viewed as easier since it is done from home, but I stress that it also has its challenges. Fortunately, little by little, I am learning the ropes of the job remotely — with some help, of course.