Work from home they said.
For most of us, each day is like groundhog day at the moment. We’re waking up later than normal on weekdays even though we are still working, we have collectively realised so much time is wasted on commuting and how much easier it is without school drop-offs or lunch boxes to pack.
We’re dressing relaxed, not a full ‘weekend mode’ but that kind of ‘I need a better shirt on’ for the zoom meeting style, and shoes are optional. Doing hair and makeup is optional, again another realisation of how much time is taken up daily with ‘getting ready’.
With all this extra time in the mornings, we should be super productive, showered, kids sorted, dressed, primed and at our computers by 7am ready to go…but it’s 9am kids still in PJ’s fighting over the last of the coco pops because it’s #PyjamaDayz4Lyfe and they’re in a never-ending holiday mode wondering why you are rushing, look stressed and ask the same question each day “Why are you wearing that Mum? You aren’t going to work”.
Finally, we scramble to the laptop to jump on the team check-in and wonder what actually happened since 7am.
I’ve worked from home before, for years in fact. I’ve even run many of my businesses from home previously. I’ve created content around how people can successfully work from home. I’ve come up with helpful useable, deployable routines to help people work remotely. I’ve been interviewed, I’ve been quoted, I’ve hosted webinars, and created downloadable PDFs on the topic. You could say I’m a work-from-home expert.
But really, it should read: I’m a work-from-home expert when:
I’m working home alone
When I can return after school drop off to a quiet workspace
When I can go out to get a coffee, come back and start the day
When I can have my meetings out in cafes or other clients offices so I still get social interaction
When I know my hard start/finish times are wrapped around school pick up and drops offs, meetigs and events.
When I can have video call or any calls for that matter in silence and not have kids fighting over ipads or wifi or what snacks are allowed at what time in the background.
I suppose you could say I am a WFH expert in ideal conditions. COVID-19 house lockdown, social distancing, and homeschooling are not ideal situations. We need to cut ourselves some slack.
To be clear, I am completely loving having my family around me. It’s my smallest one’s last year before starting school, so the extra time with him right now at this age is irreplaceable. I am very grateful. My older kids are learning so much around having to structure their days themselves, self regulate for meals and snacks and not be governed by school bells and schedules and flipping the days to now generate their own activities all while coping with being around each other so much.
I also have the privilege of sharing parenting with my Children’s father. We do half weeks each and split days if either of us has anything important on. It’s actually the first positive I’ve found in being a separated parent. So much so, I’d suggest to dual-parent families divvying up the weeks or days so that you both get ‘turns’ at block working so you can actually get some uninterrupted time, it’s worth a try. I know some families who have “on duty” hours so one parent takes the mornings the other the afternoons. The key is having a plan and clear communication to know what the expectations are of each other.
Given all of this, in regards to WFH, I know what I need to do, I know I need a routine, I need a neat dedicated workspace, structure, schedule, and breaks. I know I need to start the day well with my morning routine and end it just as well by switching off and transitioning back to being at ‘home’ by changing my environment or doing a different physical activity or using a third space to shift gears.
I always recommend that people working from home do not engage in house chores during the ‘working’ hours. The aim of this is to have a clear mindset and headspace to get what you need to do done at any given point in time.
I know this. I actually know all the things, but I don’t always do them. Life gets messy sometimes and we need to go with the flow even when the flow is unproductive.
Last week I was moving house which meant all ‘normal things’ (if you can call anything normal right now during COVID-19 )were out of sync.
First of all, my office was makeshift on the kitchen bench as I’d half packed the house including my actual desk.
I had accepted the fact I couldn’t nail all the things; I was working from my phone, emailing and dialing into meetings on my laptop from the quietness of my car, I was zooming into meetings in my gym gear in between hauling boxes, packing, unpacking, feeding kids, cleaning, dealing with mold in my new place and trapping possums who had taken up residence in my roof. I dropped the ball on many things, but I also kept going.
I had a really crappy week. I was frustrated at everything happening right now, I questioned everything. I wanted to press pause or run away for a bit, yet it wasn’t an option. I couldn’t escape to the beach for a seaside factory reset for my emotional wellbeing, nor could I wander into the bush for a hike or take a drive it the mountains for a different perspective and fresh mountain air as it’s all “non-essential travel” and most of those activities are all banned right now. All of my go-to tools and coping mechanisms have been taken away.
The thing is, everyone is searching right now for the ‘How to’s’ the frameworks, the ‘guides’, the ‘what’s next’ insights, and the tools to keep going. Many crutches and comforts have been taken away, some of us have lost so much more. We’ve lost livelihoods, income, some of us are sick and unwell.
I’ve experienced significant loss and trauma in the past 12 months; my marriage, my life partner and best friend, my family unit as it once was, our family home, my future vision and story of what was ‘to be’…
A friend recently said to me you lose much more than a husband in a separation. She’s right, there are family members who take sides, the joint friends that are no longer, the associations with places and spaces and the ways you once did things. It’s complex. This is not the post to go into it, but it’s an important reference point for perspective, especially at a time we are expecting people to “ Work from home” when home for many is not an ideal place to be and might hold more weight than it should and the simple task of ‘working’ involves so much more than internet connectivity, location, space, place, collaboration platforms and zoom calls. It’s a mindset and our ability to be empathetic of our people, and all circumstances at this time are more critical than ever.
The coronavirus-kicker for me was a 1/3 reduction of income with lost work contracts. For perspective, there are much worse situations than mine and considering I caused most of the chaos in my own life I don’t have much to complain about. I’m alive, healthy, and have my gorgeous thriving kids and I hold a belief that the right friends will come back if they’re meant to.
Things certainly look different right now. I’m still going, I still wake up each day pre-dawn to give myself time before the day starts and life’s demands beg for my attention. That’s the best I can do right now. I’m forever changed and still discovering my new normal. Funnily enough, I think we all are.
This morning I was listening to the latest Tea with Gary V podcast while I was out running and a lady called in asking for advice on how to juggle everything during coronavirus when she was feeling like she was losing it all, and failing. He said: “You ARE doing it, the fact that you are asking says to me you are not homeless, your kids have not run away, you are surviving. This is what juggling feels like, hard is uncomfortable”. This resonated because of everyone’s perception of juggling, surviving and thriving is so very different. It’s damaging to make comparisons and you have to be mindful of who you ask for guidance from because everyone’s perspective of a ‘problem’ is vastly different.
Manging everything is hard yet ‘hard’ is relative. Some people’s juggle is with a lot of help, some have none, sometimes people have two parents in one house some have one, some have grandparents and there is a team. Support comes in many forms and it’s all perspective. Some people are unwell, some have disabilities or are caring for others in addition to life layering itself on top of everything else. There are different size houses, different incomes, kids no kids, but here’s the thing; there is no one formula for what any of this ‘should’ look like.
Nailing it or managing is relative to everyone’s individual situation. Happiness, contentment, and being satisfied with where you are at and what you have is more related to alignment than anything else.
So on a day when soul-satisfying happiness and coping seem a little far away for me, all I can do is remain grateful for what I have right now and aim to end each day in alignment. For me, this means shutting the lid of my laptop knowing I did the best I could in my work under the current circumstances. Then I’ll head outside to watch the sunset with my kids as they ride their bikes in the street because, in a few months time, I’ll be watching that sunset from my car window on the way home from work wishing I was sitting in my street watching the kids ride bikes.