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Working from home: surviving as a microscopist

2nd April 2020 | Author: Dr. Christian Lang

Working from Home: Surviving as a Microscopist

Many of us have been working from home for the last week or two. Getting used to this new situation can certainly feel stressful. A significant amount of my first few days was taken up with trying to find a space in the house to join online meetings with colleagues from work while at the same time trying to home educate our kids. However, I feel like I am starting to slip into a routine that works and things are already feeling a bit easier.

Without any exception, my team have been absolutely great in adjusting to working remotely. While keeping up with their day jobs of working with our technologists and developers (who are also now largely working from home) our product managers, scientist and marketing specialists have been coming up with new ideas on how to support and keep in touch with our customers during this period. We are working with people across the globe in countries at very different stages in the pandemic. In some parts of the world the shutdown has come to an end and things seem to be returning to normal. Our colleagues in China for example are all back at work and are starting to see customers again after more than two months of working from home and only communicating remotely. Now that we are in virtual lock down, they are not only supporting their local customers but also running samples for us on their microscopes to provide us with data that will help to support our global customer base.

Working remotely?

Our SEMs are in offices which are now largely empty. In some countries we can physically access the SEMs on rare occasions in order to change a filament or to load new samples, but for most we have set the microscopes up for remote access and are running them from our homes. This allows us to support customers who are still working such as some emergency services and also to create new content for those of you who are currently in lockdown. In addition, we are supporting as many as possible of our customers through individual calls where possible. We know that many of you who are working in academia are using this time to write grant proposals and offer support where we can with quotes, specifications and technical details.

While it is perfectly possible to run most SEMs remotely (with the exception of changing samples), the software often has not been designed for that purpose and many of us are used to using physical controls to move the sample and adjust the focus or stigmators.  Supporting techniques such as EDS or EBSD often run on separate computers which also need to be connected to the network. Our home-working application scientists have commented that this is where our AZtecLive step comes into its own when working remotely. It allows control over sample movements and focus, while on the same screen integrating EDS functionality. At the same time, we discovered that it might be useful to integrate more functionality into this step such as adjusting the scan speed while scanning as well as more alignment functions.

Staying sane...

When working from home, it is easy for the boundaries between work life and home life to become blurred. It is too easy to leave the computer on and keep responding to messages long after the workday has finished. At the same time, the setup at home is often not as ergonomically arranged as the computer at work. Working for ten hours a day in a small box room, I have found it useful to take regular breaks and use some of the free online resources our HR team have been sending around. So far I have tried some of the work outs on Fitness Blender. I’m also determined to give Yoga a try, maybe using the two months free trial on DoYogaWithMe

To help make home a better experience I am sure there are plenty of other amazing resources to make working from home more enjoyable. So please share any tips you may have or any experiences in our comments section below. In an effort to support you better during these uncertain times, we have extended our programme of webinars from one a month to two, with the additional webinars focussing on a particular product or technique similar to a tutorial followed by a Q&A session with some of our product managers and applications scientists.

I hope you all keep safe and please let us know if there is anything else we at Oxford Instruments can do to support you better during this difficult time.

Ask me a question

Dr Christian Lang

Marketing Director

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