Life in Lockdown: Alastair Merrill

Water cooler chats aren’t just for the office. Alastair Merrill, Vice-Principal (Governance) at the University of St Andrews, shares his experiences of remote working for our Life in Lockdown series.

What is your proudest achievement since lockdown began?

Seeing how staff across the institution have rallied together. They have delivered what would have looked like an impossible agenda of change six months ago.

What is your greatest challenge at the moment?

Trying to take some leave!

How are you finding working from home?

One thing I don’t miss is the 90-minute commute.

But the working day certainly hasn’t shrunk. Work has a habit of expanding to consume the time available.

I’m fortunate to have been able to commandeer the spare room. We’ve settled into a pretty good routine, once the family had discussed how to share out the Wi-Fi bandwidth.

What have you learned about yourself during lockdown?

I have learnt how much I enjoy human interaction.

Also, it is possible to answer the door to the Tesco delivery driver, feed the cat, boil a kettle, and chair a Teams meeting, all at the same time.

What are you most looking forward to once lockdown is lifted?

Seeing friends and colleagues in person rather than on screen, having meetings that aren’t on Teams or Zoom, and being able to go for ice cream at Jannettas Gelateria on South Street.

What will you miss the most about life in lockdown?

The early morning runs and bike rides in the Pentland Hills that have substituted for my normal 60-mile commute.

I will also miss the domestic equivalent of “water cooler” chats with my son (also on lockdown and working from home) and my wife (ditto) in the course of the day.

What one piece of advice or lesson learned in lockdown would you share with members?

Try to keep a few minutes between one videoconference and the next. Otherwise, you end up with a headache, a stiff back, caffeine withdrawal symptoms, and a very full bladder!

Alastair Merrill is the Vice-Principal (Governance) at the University of St Andrews University. You can follow Alastair on Twitter.

And remember: no two lockdown experiences are the same. Sharing our experience is important for supporting staff wellbeing after lockdown, as well as our own mental health. You can explore other lockdown stories shared by AHUA members in our Life in Lockdown series.