Remote working 14,000km distant

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Many people have been finding ways to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
For Brenda Morrison, of Naseby, it has meant running an international academy at a distance of more than 14,000km.

Ms Morrison is the principal of a school in Qatar attended by more than 600 pupils from preschool to year 6.
‘‘We have an international school that has Qatari students and ex-pat students,’’ she said.
‘‘They are all doing online learning at the moment and all our teachers are working from home.’’

The peninsula country of Qatar borders Saudi Arabia to the south and is surrounded by the Persian Gulf.
The first Covid-19 cases appeared in Qatar in February.
‘‘There were a few cases in the beginning coming in from Iran.
‘‘They closed the border fairly early on for people coming into Qatar, to being only Qatari people.’’

Qatar has a large expatriate community, but they began to be excluded from the country, including her husband, Mark Smiley.
‘‘My husband had to come back to New Zealand for something and he got stuck in New Zealand. He wasn’t able to return,’’ Ms Morrison said.

On about March 10 ‘‘suddenly all the schools were closed and had to go online.’’

‘‘We were told by the Ministry of Health that the schools were to close.’’ The country didn’t go into full lockdown, instead there was closing of specific areas including malls and restaurants, and eventually takeaways became delivery only.
‘‘When I went to the supermarket they had all the social distancing lines and as you go into the supermarket they took your temperature.
‘‘But they never had the full lockdown, everyone was working , offices and that were still open.’’

As the number of cases began to climb, and faced with being stuck in Qatar during summer when temperatures could reach 50degC, she decided to fly back while she still could.
‘‘I was very lucky that my managing director let me work remotely.’’

Covid-19 cases continued to rise in Qatar.
‘‘When I left about 200 a day were getting it, and it is up to about 800 or 900 a day now, so I do feel a lot safer in New Zealand.’’

Ms Morrison arrived in Auckland about the middle of March, and spent two weeks in quarantine.
She was able to take a walk every day with an escort.
‘‘They were using civil aviation security people — one at the front, one at the back.’’
After the quarantine period Ms Morrison travelled to Naseby, rejoining her husband at a small crib owned by her husband’s family.

She works in the evenings.
‘‘I’m always available on my phone and [messaging service] WhatsApp.
‘‘Sometimes I have to work through the night because it is different hours, but it doesn’t really matter.
‘‘Most people never realise I am working from New Zealand.’’
Working from a cottage in Naseby was a long way from Qatar, but there was the added advantage of enjoying the ‘‘gorgeous autumn outdoors and colour of Naseby at present.’’