Working from home: COVID-19 - A snapshot in time

We would like to invite Aucklanders to take part in a contemporary archive collecting initiative designed to create a resource for researchers to use in the future.

We are currently collecting voices from communities across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland in order to:

● Include the real voices and sounds from the communities.
● Include an accurate and true recording of our lives during this crisis - 'A snapshot in time'.
● Gather a good spread of material from communities across the region.
● Have a wide variety of voices represented, including different age groups.

Image:Sharon Smith. COVID-19 Student desk 1 set-up in garage, Titirangi. Carefully constructed desk made from old unused door, plastic storage boxes covered with sleeping bags, and old office chair, April 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925.
What types of things?

Writing such as diary entries, thoughts, recollections of feelings, poems, photographs and drawings, collected screen shots of social media posts, sounds, a combination of things is also fine.

Who can I ask?

Yourself - thoughts, feelings, accounts about life at the moment, and how COVID-19 has impacted your day to day life over the past few months. What are your reflections, and your hopes for the future?

Children - what were children's impressions of life under lockdown? Impressions from a parenting perspective would be great also.

Groups - Perhaps you could do this as a group activity – such as the small group within Council ICT who have been running a COVID-19 photograph competition, or a writing group, sports group - any group, or religious community.

We made an earlier archive collecting call out to Auckland Council staff. Here is a photo-essay on the topic of working from home during the pandemic, it features a selection of these images and an audio interview clip.

Image: Sharon Smith. COVID-19 Work desk 2 set-up in garage, Titirangi. Makeshift office desk featuring old fruit box supports and length of painted plywood, and fancy office chair, April 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925.

Image: Sharon Smith. COVID-19 Bedroom office, Titirangi, April 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925

For those of us office workers who were not part of essential services, or a multi-agency response team such as the Regional Isolation and Quarantine Team, we may have been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Image: Renee Orr. "Thank you Essential Workers” sign, Oxton Road, Sandringham, Auckland, April 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925.

On the 20th of March 2020 it was announced by the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, that Auckland Council libraries, pools and recreation centres, the Maritime Museum, War Memorial Museum and Art Gallery were to close for two weeks. In reality, it took a bit longer than that to re-open…

On Saturday the 21st of March, he called on all Auckland businesses that can do so to support their staff to work from home, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).

COVID-19 Alert Level 4 came into force at 11:59pm on Wednesday 25 March 2020. 

The people of Aotearoa New Zealand were told to “Stay home” to “Save lives”.

Image: Stephen Lasham.“Stay home, Save lives” billboards, Onehunga, May 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925

The Government advised that we needed to stay at home unless we were travelling to or from essential work or making necessary trips such as grocery shopping and trips to doctors, pharmacies and vets.

Image: Sharon Smith.“We’re going home” sign, front door, Titirangi Medical Centre, April 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925

A rush ensued, we had to get ready to work from home with little time to spare. Ad hoc desks and workstations were set up in people’s homes. Advice for working from home was supplied by businesses, tools such as Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams were suggested as ways to keep in touch with our team. 

We needed to find out about what was expected of us in this new world order. Suggestions of working in manageable chunks, having a ‘to-do’ list, being realistic about what we could achieve, and having a daily routine. Tips on how to avoid procrastination and household chores were given, we were encouraged to share successes and learning on how to work well remotely, including how to arrange a schedule so it works for everyone in your whare. We were also advised to be aware of the unusual work situation we were in and to limit stress, and to be kind to ourselves, and to others.

Image: Bridget Simpson. Transcribing letters from the Sir George Grey New Zealand Manuscript collection.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925.

Among other things, staff from the Libraries Heritage Team worked transcribing Sir George Grey’s New Zealand letters, cataloguing photographs in the Auckland Weekly News, writing blogs for this site, and starting the 'COVID-19 – A snapshot in time' archive.

Existing online resources such as, LinkedIn Learning and in-house resources were suggested for those interested in increasing their capability to work remotely and for those leading a remote team.

Other ways of connecting with people included via the business intranet social groups and email.

Some people have loved being able to work from home, citing the advantages of less interruptions, greater productivity, the enjoyment of not having to spend time commuting to and from the office, less pollution from exhaust emissions and more time to exercise.

Image: Natasha Barrett. Grafton Gully cycleway and motorway off-ramp, devoid of traffic, Grafton, Auckland, May 2020. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925

Image: Sharon Smith. Walking shoes discarded at the front door, Titirangi Road, April 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925.

Many people have appreciated keeping things simple, a new way to work, and have experienced an increased sense of wellbeing and self-determination. Some dogs have been on more walks than they may care to remember.

COVID-19 Alert Level 3 came into force at 11:59pm on Monday 27 April 2020.

As part of the 'COVID-19 - A snapshot in time' archive, Sue Berman – oral historian – talked with colleague Brent Giblin from Research West on the last day of the Level 3 lock down.

Listen to the track here.

Image: Bridget Simpson. Tilly watches the daily 1pm announcement at Alert Level 3, April 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925.

Following this announcement an increasing number of home delivery options for businesses swung into action.

Image: Stephen Lasham. Home delivery sign in butcher shop at Greenwoods Corner, Auckland, April 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925.

COVID-19 Alert Level 2 came into force at 11:59pm on Wednesday 13 May 2020. 

Some of us were invited to come back into the office, travel restrictions on buses remained, social distancing in the workplace set out, and ‘work bubbles’ were encouraged. Regular hand washing was still seen as imperative.

Image: Natasha Barrett. “Please stand here” decal, Tattoo, Karangahape Road, Auckland, May 2020.
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZMS 3925

COVID-19 Alert Level 1 came into force at 11:59pm on Monday 8 June 2020.

It will be interesting to see what the appetite for working from home is for employees and employers in the weeks and months ahead. What will be the future of working from home, what will it look like?

We are keen to hear about your experiences working from home, did it work out for you? What did the set-up look like? Would you like to continue to have the option as part of your work in the future?

Please consider contributing items to the Auckland Libraries, Heritage Collections team’s 'COVID-19 - A Snapshot in Time' collection. We are seeking to gather more material to document Aucklanders response to COVID-19, now and in the future.

Please contact Sharon Smith via email ( if you would like to take part.

To those who have donated to our archive, thank you very much. Recording and collecting Auckland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will allow the public of Auckland, Aotearoa and beyond, a resource that will be researched, cared for, and cherished for generations to come.

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou.

Author: Sharon Smith, Senior Librarian Archives & Manuscripts