How I Work

How I Work #1: Margaret in Australia

Welcome to How I Work!

This series on Joie de Vivre highlights how women around the world are adjusting, coping, and working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. It features professionals living in Australia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and the United States (from Detroit and Chicago to Alabama and Vermont).

How I Work #1 introduces Dr. Margaret Hawke, 36, a geologist in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

A world traveler – I’ve received postcards from Vietnam, Iceland, and Greece, among other countries – Margy is back home in Australia after doing research in Tanzania. She currently consults for the Australian minerals industry, focusing on data compilation and interpretation, geological field mapping, drill core logging, and research and development. She writes, “I once found a major copper deposit. And it wasn’t by sitting in an office! I can also fly helicopters and aeroplanes – but going flying is currently not considered an essential activity.”

Margy and I have known each other for almost 20 years. We have seen each other in person exactly twice: once in 2000 in Huntsville, Alabama and once in 2014 in Chicago. Over the years, we kept in touch first by letter and telephone, then by email, and now by WhatsApp. Read on for Margy’s thoughts on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected how she works.

How has the pandemic changed your job and how you work?

Margy, with fly net, in the field in Western Australia before the pandemic

I had finished up a six-month postdoctoral study at the University of Tasmania only days before the university closed and Australia took strong self-isolation measures. I consult to exploration companies across Australia and had one contract already lined up for the end of March which would see me travel back to Western Australia (W.A.) to complete the practical geological core logging and geochemical sampling work required. Much of my work this year I anticipated was going to be in the field and I was looking forward to getting back to it.

Within a week, W.A. had announced that they were closing their borders to EVERYONE. Not even a Western Australian was allowed to go home from the eastern states after 31st March. On top of that, the facilities that I would have needed to complete the job closed and all internal travel within W.A. was restricted.

Luckily, most companies photograph their drill core and the Geological Survey of Western Australia has processed their core with their new HyLogger technique, so I have had to make do with logging the geology using photographs. It worked ok given I had a knowledge of the rocks, but it does not replace having the real thing in front of you.

We are lucky that we closed the borders fairly early, but regardless it’s all expected to last the next six months. I’m hopeful that Australia will be able to eradicate Corona so we will be able to travel … My options currently are limited to work I can do remotely, without needing to have rocks in front of me, or needing to go into the field. I have had several phone calls with companies to convince them it’s a good time to do the project evaluation and planning side of exploration. Have a little bit of work coming in, but many companies are trying to reduce costs, so it’s pretty tough out there!

And, of course, all international work is cancelled!

What have you done to adjust?

Margy’s current work space in her home office

I have a dedicated work area in my spare bedroom in Hobart, so if I go in there, then that is work time. Being self-employed and not having constant work, I’ve had spare time to do those other things around the house that I don’t get time to do – cleaning out all the old paperwork, tidying up the garden, learning some new work relevant skills, reading a book! And just trying to take things slowly.

A view of the beach and mountains on Margy’s morning walk in Hobart, Tasmania

We are allowed out for essential items only, one of which is exercise, so I try to go for a walk early in the morning or late in the afternoon, trying to avoid people wherever possible. Supermarket shopping is once a week – usually early in the morning also to avoid people, and sometimes incorporated into the morning walk. Organised wine and cheese nights with friends over Zoom has also been good for the sanity.

Also, making sure to get up, get ready for the day as normal, wear jeans (because otherwise they might not fit in 6 months!) and try to avoid snacks. But slippers and blankets are essential dress code as the weather here gets colder.

How will these changes affect how you work in the future?

Margy’s morning walk in Hobart, Tasmania

Being self-employed, I have had a dedicated space to work from home the last few years. I was really looking forward to going out into the field this year, some friends from the USA were also coming over to do some research in the Pilbara in July this year and I was going to join them, so that is all cancelled for who knows how long.

Pretty much it’s just working on the things we usually do in the off-season, but not in an office, and not able to see your colleagues and friends. I’ve travelled interstate for a meeting that I was told I “must” be at. And then the “meeting” lasted for 10 minutes in a hallway with coffees in hand. I think most people will see the benefit of being able to work from home, not having to travel for those meetings that could have been an email, phone call or Zoom catch up. And hopefully the mentality will change so that staff are encouraged to work from home if they are sick instead of coming to the office and spreading it around.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned or encountered during this time?

Margy in the field in Western Australia, before the pandemic

I like my own space, but am also a really social person! Not being able to see my 97-year-old grandma is also difficult.

I’m also astonished at the lack of / late response in some of the larger countries in the world and what has happened there. Don’t be blasé! Just stay home and wash your hands!

Many thanks to Margy for sharing her experience and insights and for supporting the How I Work Project!

What changes have you made to adjust to life and work during coronavirus?

Merci for reading and please subscribe and share!

À votre santé,

Katie

About the How I Work Project

The How I Work series on Joie de Vivre highlights how women around the world are adjusting, coping, and working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. It features professionals living in Australia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, and the United States (from Detroit and Chicago to Alabama and Vermont).

Whether full-time or part-time, entry-level or retired, a student or a stay-at-home parent or an entrepreneur, we are working. And we all have something to share about how the pandemic effects our daily lives.

Sharing individual insights in a positive, constructive space creates a supportive digital community as we weather the storm of COVID-19 together. It also sheds light on the new normal of the collective lived experience of working during the time of coronavirus.

4 thoughts on “How I Work #1: Margaret in Australia”

  1. Nice read, one thing about this pandemic, it gives a feeling of togetherness. Even though Margy does different work, in a different part of the world and finds herself in a different situation being an independent worker, I recognize a lot of what she says.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This really puts the current situation into context. It is good to read about how other people in different regions of the world are coping. The effects of this invisible enemy have been far-reaching across borders.

    Liked by 1 person

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