Finding the balance
Most of us are now entering our fourth week working remotely after having converted spare rooms, kitchen tables and garden sheds into our new work spaces. Going from full-time in the office to being home with our families is requiring certain adjustments, but there are definitely some benefits…
Leaving all expectations at the door
All plans for 2020 have been thrown out the window. How quickly things escalated. Life no longer resembles what it once was. It’s been necessary to leave all expectations at the door and just take it week to week, day-by-day. This time last month I was happily working in the office, a short commute from home. Then, overnight, with the progression of the coronavirus we took the decision to transition our entire operation to remote working. This meant that within 24 hours our working world had been turned on its head. This has progressed further with nursery and school closures and subsequently, full lockdown. My wife works three days a week for a leading skincare brand, having recently returned to work following a stint of maternity leave. She typically undertakes the bulk of childcare duties when our son is not at nursery or with grandparents. This means that I am able to work full-time with minimal distraction or interruption. As a regional business manager for the salon and spa industry, the vast majority of Giulia’s clients have been forced to close as a protection method against the virus and with no idea if or when they’ll be reopened. COVID-19 is also proving very challenging for the industry I work in – as I imagine it is for many others reading this – due to site closures, projects being placed on hold or suspended, and a number of employees unable to work from home. The uncertainty surrounding our future is not easy. There are many question marks and plenty of unknowns. But, my family means the world to me. We have our health, and I have always preferred to focus on the positives and find solutions rather than get bogged down dwelling on the problem. With the bulk of Giulia’s clients being forced to close she has unfortunately been furloughed, and whilst this is of course worrying and frustrating for us, it means she can be with our son while I hide away and focus on work. Perhaps it’s because of this the transition to working from home hasn’t been as difficult as it would be for two parents attempting to work whilst also childminding.
No other option than to slow down
Within a few weeks, I have been able to find a new rhythm and, what appears to be, an ability to share more time with my family alongside work. I am now able to do both the morning and evening routines with my son, as well as eat lunch together as a family. And due to the time saved in commuting I’m now able to spend a little extra productive time either at my desk working, or spending time with our son. The situation we’ve been thrown into puts us in a very interesting position. As we are locked down and are forced to practice self-isolation and social distancing, we have no other option than to slow down. Children and families must be acknowledged by employers and integrated into the daily routine, encouraging us to adapt, and become more innovative in our ways of working.
A time for renewed leadership
The debate for truly flexible working is something that has been bubbling under the surface for a while now, and will likely change following COVID-19. Most people don’t take advantage of their legal right to ask for flexible working from their employer for fear that it would adversely affect their career. This inhibition could be replaced by mutual understanding following this period, as people begin to understand that flexible working can be beneficial for both parties. Although it will continue to take time to adjust to the virtual office, and effort to keep team morale high, chat functions and video conferencing assist in bridging the distance. All the while, remote working allows us to spend more precious time with our loved ones. In this new scenario, leaders who are good communicators will come to the fore and those organisations with anxiety or fear of letting their workforce continue to work remotely may suffer. It may be too early to say, but could the COVID-19 crisis lead us towards a more family-balanced way of working, and see a permanent shift in the years to come?