No childcare and a baby at home. Remote working and reduced hours. How can we get that balance of feeling like a good parent whilst still adding value to our work?
Everybody deals with situations differently and as we hear a range life stories every day, everybody’s situation is different. Personally, across my career I’ve always had quite a significant proportion of my role based from home. Remote working isn’t therefore new to me so from that perspective the lockdown has been pretty much business as usual.
My initial challenge has been not having children of school age, but an 11-month-old who requires around the clock care. I can’t give him work to do, pop him in front of a movie or set him up outside to play (and I appreciate it’s not quite that straightforward!). He depends on his father and I every moment of every day. Having returned to the business from my maternity leave early, initially on a part-time basis, I had childcare arranged for those days. Having lost that childcare completely, as many have, we were left with an overnight conundrum of just how do we physically both work and care for our baby?
Thankfully, both Berwick Partners and my partner’s employer have been supportive in switching our working days to allow us both to find a working pattern where we can dedicate ourselves to our roles. The greater challenge, for me, has been feeling like I need to deliver as much as everyone else is who is full-time. Whilst this is, I’m sure, an ongoing conundrum faced by others who work part-time, the lockdown runs a risk of driving such self-pressure and anxiety further. The focus and emphasis on other areas of our remit have come to the fore and I dare say we are even busier than we were. Despite the slow-down of our industries, the vast majority of people in my network are telling me just how manic they are every day;
Give yourself a break
With business leaders switching their focus during this time to ensure the cogs continue to turn, there has been a change in the types of work and number of requests employees are getting. For your own mental well-being, you have to re-frame the conundrum of ‘how do I do as much as everyone else’ and quite quickly realise, you just can’t. Nobody can physically produce the same amount of work in part-time hours that a counterpart can do full-time.
As we’re not sharing a workspace anymore, it is easy for our peers and managers to lose sight of each others workload. Without the wider daily context, we can normally gain from our colleagues, every request can feel like a priority. Per my above realisation, you have to be selfish with your time, figure out the real priorities and apply yourself to those.
Flexibility – and not your downward dog!
Neither businesses nor us as employees have experienced such a freeze in our daily lives before. Nobody has the answers, this is unchartered territory for all. It is absolutely fair for all parties to demonstrate flexibility to do the best we can together. Whether that’s amending your working days or hours, to amending our remits in line with new shorter-term objectives whilst we all weather the storm. Think what you can do and communicate, letting others know what is feasible.
I find making sure people are aware of my working pattern (which is different each week) is important in delivering what I can with my immediate team and being a reliable team member.
Rather than having my colleagues wonder if I can or can’t contribute, I prefer to remind my team members (numerous times if needed) if something isn’t feasible, but equally, what is.
Humility goes a long way in pressured and emotional times, this being no exception. I can thankfully say everyone I’ve spoken to in both a professional and personal capacity have been understanding and flexible. We all need to approach one another with this mindset. A reminder that everyone is in a different situation which we can’t be expected to know the detail of, but, we can and should still empathise.
Categories: Consumer & FMCG Recruitment