As we read on about Covid-19 issues, people are grappling with the new normal of limited socializing and school closures. I have written about the silver lining during covid disruptions before, but felt I had to write a proper piece about this jugglery.
Photo by juan pablo rodriguez on Unsplash
The number of people who are working from home and schooling from home is at an amazing high. Yes, we are officially in the era of school from home and this puts a tremendous pressure on parents who have had to work from home. We were looking out to prepare our kids for the real world, but our ‘real world’ seems to be in a flux and we need to cope with the new normal, however temporary. The formal ‘office’, is not a part of the work equation any longer. As we talk and dress less formally, many of us have also had to work while caring for our families. There is a blurring of lines between ‘office’ work and ‘house’ work.
In this pandemic driven milieu, juggling is the new norm; watching office presentations while stirring a pot, taking an office call while paying for a subscription to help your child with an Inductive Logic class, alternating between figuring out data on an excel sheet and your child’s homework, quickly exiting a Zoom meeting so your daughter can take a class on a shared laptop, mentoring a new employee and your irritable high school child, the list can go on.
All this becomes harder with single parent homes or dual working parents. It feels like a never ending cycle of work and chores. At the onset of the closures, many households dealt with it like a break from regular schedules; only to have chaos reign very soon. Routines are important – both for our productivity at work, ‘house’ work and avoiding burnout.
List out the important activities
Listing out actually helps us sift through all that has to be done; a shorter list always seems more achievable. Lists could be made daily, weekly or monthly. Use a scheduler or just jot it down. If the schedule is clashing with something else which cannot be rescheduled, talk to your manager and explain the situation. The work thing could get rescheduled. There is always a certain thrill in putting a tick against tasks on a list which are completed. A sense of satisfaction can be a real high.
So here are 3 key strategies you could follow:
1. Emphasize cooperative living:
Lockdown or no lockdown, co-operative living is a tool. Yes, it is a productivity tool for working from home. In this period when there is a time, space and patience constraint, co-operative living is a necessity. From the littlest member to the oldest (multi generational households are on the increase), members understand that their role is important. Everyone has chores, however minor. People share space as and when they need it. A dining table could double up as a work table. If people have calls or need to attend a class, they get priority. If any member is not feeling like doing a chore, exchange it with another willing member. If it helps, list routines / chores and put it up in a common place. Discussions to sort out differences are better than shouting matches.
2. Always have an underlying routine:
There is a schedule in nature around us and right inside us. Circadian rhythms are important for our health, moods and wellbeing. We need to schedule things while syncing with these rhythms. This helps in managing our time by reducing the surprises of unfinished work, and also freeing up some quality bonding time to look forward to. In these lockdown times, as kids and parents inhabit the same space, it gets real hard to maintain all our schedules. Parents can take turns to do housework and spend time with the kids in 3-4 hours shifts, so to say. Combine this with a clearly prioritized task list, and parents can have some order creep into their day. When you plan a routine, always remember that tasks which involve kids have a tendency to overrun the time allotted. Build this into the routine. Most importantly, build in some bonding time for the whole family. Play, grow something, watch something fun, do a project or just chat with each other.
3. Cut yourself some slack:
The lockdown, in spite of some notice from other countries, has come as quite a surprise. The pileup of child care, eldercare in some cases, chores, uncertainty, lack of an end-date, and work, has left most of us overstretched. The inability to go out freely has only added to the challenges. Finding long chunks of undisturbed time is next to impossible. The day feels like it’s in pieces with constant needs from both the office and home. Trying to be available for work throughout the day is bad for one’s well-being. Although the flexibility available feels great, we need to understand that we also need to wind down to recharge for the following day. Occasionally when we slip up in all our planning, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Be kind. Accept that something went wrong. Apologize. Move on.
Even though free movement is still restricted in some places, go out for some exercise to places which are not crowded. Go for a walk. If you have a yard, play. Sit out in the sun. Put a desk outside and work there. With commute times cut out of the picture, there is some freeing up of time, although it does get filled up pretty rapidly with laundry, washing and cooking.
The morphing employer
For years ‘remote’ work has been touted as the future of work. The word ‘remote’ crept into our language in a surreptitious way, be it remote servers, remote login, remote learning, remote classes or remote work. These Covid lockdowns have created a sort of testing ecosystem for all the theories that had abounded about remote work in large numbers. The formal office meetings have given way to virtual video meetings with kids floating in and out of screens. Emotional barriers are lowered. People are discovering facets of their fellow employees they had given no thought to.
As concerns about mental health issues increase, supportive employers are stepping forward to help employees cope – even if there are no visible signs of struggle. There is no beating the advantages of a healthy and happy employee base.
4 things employers are looking at differently:
- Work time flexibility
- Support with mental well-being
- Providing learning opportunities to upskill employees
- Company culture now includes onboarding new employees remotely and engendering a supportive and appreciative environment to employees
For employers, this has been like an experiment – listening to their employees, reading between the lines and making changes to remote interactions to stay supportive. As the lockdown times have increased anxiety levels, companies like Buffer have experimented with a shorter work week.
Even as employees are trying to cope with the situation, employers are tweaking the rules of engagement with their employees to be attuned to their requirements. Everyone is working differently. Stay calm, prioritize and use these strategies to work efficiently and happily from home.