Working at home through a crisis… while raising mini humans
In my iCal for months gone by, ‘WFH’ meant exactly that…Working From Home.
I look back at those days now with fond memories and a fuzzy warm feeling.
I remember how on those ‘WFH’ days I would walk the kids to school and nursery without a care in the world, maybe picking up a coffee and then head back to my lovely, quiet house where I would sit at the dining room table and… work.
I might have taken a break for a cuppa, or a dog walk. Maybe even put a leisurely wash on. But mostly I would enjoy a day of focussed, uninterrupted work.
Like the rest of the world, my idyllic ‘WFH’ routine was shattered.
The New Normal
My experience over the last six weeks has led me to the conclusion that I can’t really describe what I am doing now as ‘Working From Home’. More accurate would be ‘Trying to get some work done at home during a crisis… whilst also looking after two little humans’.
Whatever our situation is during this lockdown, however we find ourselves, we all have our own barriers to working at home; the things that just get in our way. What I see right now is a need to be able to be really honest about what that looks like for us all, in the hope that this realness will help us to understand each other that bit better, as colleagues and as humans.
Being a parent is of course full of joy and wonderful things… but when trying to do said parenting whilst working, things can become a little tricky to say the least.
The Lockdown Juggle
It’s not just about keeping them well fed, exercised and busy, by the way. That might be achievable (thanks Joe Wicks & Disney Plus!). There is also a new expectation to ‘homeschool’ them too. The term itself sends shivers down my spine. Overnight hundreds of Facebook groups and Instagram accounts sprung up filled with craft-y parents sharing ideas of amazing activities you really SHOULD be doing with your children.
I found myself thinking ‘so, you want us to do a good job, to perform at work as we did before AND at the same time do it in a noisy house, with constant interruptions and the added pressure of having to paint rainbows with toddlers to put in our windows, cover off Phase 3 Phonics AND teach someone how to tell the time? Blimey.’
The Simple Truth
For me, Anna Whitehouse – aka Mother Pukka – (nb: no relation – Anna is a journalist and campaigner for flexible working for ‘people who happen to be parents’) puts it in a way that makes sense; what we are asking of our people is simply not possible.
Thankfully there are lots of great organisations out there that do ‘get it’. For example one that is close to our hearts at NKD is DHL:
And IBM with their recent Work From Home Pledge:
What I love about these organisations is that they are actively encouraging their people to share, to be honest, to be real. During days like these, that’s just what is needed.
And there are many that still don’t get it. I have friends who now find themselves on back to back conference calls from 9am – 6pm and who are expected to behave as they would in the office – even though they have children who need and deserve their time and focus. Cue employees pretending their children don’t exist and muting themselves while they comfort a sobbing child or break up a teenage fight.
Honesty is the best policy
Whatever their reality is right now, it is their reality.
Our worlds still exist. Kids will have tantrums. Dogs will bark. Partners will be annoying. But it is our reality and ‘going on mute’ doesn’t change that. Much rather be open and honest and share how I am coping than have to hide it from anyone.
I have learnt a lot in lockdown. Firstly I like my kids more than I thought I did (and I think the feeling might be mutual), and also there is actually a lot of fun to be had in a cardboard-box car.
The thing I have reflected on most of all however is how lucky I am as a freelancer to work with amazing organisations that do get it, that get me as a human being, warts and all. It has reaffirmed to me how incredibly lucky I am to have that in my life. I am lucky enough to be able to share all of me with those that I work with, drama and noise and everything. I am thankful for that.
Maybe this is an opportunity for all of us to stop and assess how much we share at work with our employers, how much they really understand our lives and the reality of how we can bring our best selves to work, whether that is in the office or in the upstairs box room/toddler’s bedroom.
But shhh…please don’t schedule a Zoom call during nap time…