Remote Workers – David Byrne, Tina Haglund

This blog post is part of a series of posts from the ninth Knowledge Café, held during the 87th IFLA World Library and Information Congress in Dublin, Ireland, July 26-29, 2022. 

The session was co-sponsored by the Knowledge Management Section and the Continuous Professional Development and Workplace Learning Section and was co-chaired by Monica Ertel and Maggie Farrell.

Several Standing Committee Members of Management & Marketing were involved as facilitators or rapporteurs.

Many of the discussions are connected to management and management skills, why we have decided to publish the content also in this blog.

You find all of the content at:

Remote Workers

FacilitatorDavid Byrne  CILIP RPG, UNITED KINGDOM

Rapporteur:  Tina Haglund  Department Manager, Digital Library/Media  Helsingborg City Libraries  SWEDEN 

During the pandemic, many institutions have implemented remote work options and flexible schedules.  This has been perceived as an employee benefit as well as more productive for certain types of work. Questions:

  • Is your library still working partially from home (remote)?
  • How is it going?
  • Will your library have remote work options in the future?
  • The participants expressed joy and happiness at the opening up of organisations and being able to meet users and customers in person again.
  • The participants are mostly back on site. At public libraries it´s harder to work remotely since the libraries are back to normal and remote working is difficult or not possible for staff on the frontline.
  • It also depends what role or position you have in the organization: tasks like management and administration for example are often easier when working remotely.

What challenges have you experienced?

  • During the pandemic there was an energy and determination to solve the task and fulfill the goals of the libraries and to be an asset in the community, university, or to the employer. There was the challenge to continue to provide services during periods when libraries were closed and lock down in place.
  • Some staff needed to be physically at the library to manage remote services while others could work from home. The home office environment had its own challenges with slower technology and bad Internet connections. Employers often had to provide staff with laptops and phones at short notice.
  • Some of the participants expressed difficulty in maintaining a work-life balance when working from home. It became easy to work longer hours and sometimes spread over 7 days of the week.
  • Bad Internet connections and slow technology created stressful situations, especially during Zoom or Teams meetings.

What benefits have you experienced?

  • By creating new services online and setting up Facebook chats to serve the community. With remote working and the rapid move to digital meetings, some libraries helped and provided colleagues with online guidelines and training on how to use Zoom. It was easier to adjust more quickly if the investment in technology was already in place: some libraries had laptops and iPads for use by both the public and staff members.
  • Many of the participants had the possibility to do a lot of online training and professional development, something that benefitted both the employee and the employer.
  • By using experiences from covid in other major challenges like climate concerns, to travel less and work part of your time remote.
  • When you need to focus on specific tasks it is sometimes a lot easier to do so by working remotely without colleagues around. The possibility to work from home can make it easier to plan the week and to have digital meetings instead of physical ones – this also saves time in travelling.

What changes in management or for supervisors have you developed?

  • During covid restrictions and lock down, the focus was on keeping the library services going and managing daily challenges. When opening up other questions and issues were raised, like being “fair” about who works on site and who is allowed to work remotely depending on specific roles and responsibilities. Some libraries took the opportunity to create a policy allowing remote work in order to increase flexibility in the workplace.
  • Online meetings can save time and reduce the need for travel linked to meetings.
  • An opportunity to build trust across teams with tasks being completed successfully both on site and remotely without the usual supervision.
  • Harder for management to fulfill obligations linked to the working environment when colleagues are working remotely. It is also more difficult to address personnel issues as a manager when team members are working remotely. You have to rely on email and meetings by telephone and online meetings rather being able to meet up face to face.

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