Working from home during Corona Lockdown
A year ago we would have laughed at the notion that we would be called upon to do the one thing that could save humanity from disaster: stay indoors and do nothing. On paper it sounds ridiculously easy, but the reality is far from it. Now, into our second week of lock-down in India, we know that only too well. Many of us are managing our homes, our kids and our work, and it can seem like there is no respite and what’s worse, even with these round-the-clock schedules, everything seems up in the air. So in this article we will outline guidelines on how to cope with the lockdown across these multiple aspects with health and sanity intact. This last one i.e. making sure we are taking care of our own selves is crucial, perhaps the most important one, on it hinges everything else.
Let us help you through it
Over the last 3 years, we at FlexiBees have placed hundreds of women professionals in demanding work-from-home roles. Moreover, we are a fully remote organisation ourselves with our 24-member team working from across cities, and even countries. When the lockdown was announced, we quickly went to our community of women and did in-depth conversations with them to understand the challenges and potential solutions it posed. What resulted is an exhaustive toolkit that since then we have rolled out to 200+ women and are rolling out to more as we speak. We have received great feedback on it, and we thought it would help to make the learning more mainstream for the benefit of everyone else. This guideline document is not just for women, but for all working parents or working professionals in the family unit who are working together to survive through this tough phase.
Guidelines for surviving the lockdown
Three broad themes emerged, we will tackle them one by one.
- Allocate home and childcare tasks among family members and agree the slots you will be available for working in with all stakeholders including work ones. For those important calls that you cannot move to a slot that works for you, seek help of the spouse in taking over as an exception.
- If the day doesn’t allow for a decent chunk of work to get completed, expand the day at either end to complete some tasks, within reason. For example, you can rise early and complete cooking for the day or keep washing the dishes till the end of the day or separate work into tasks that can done by yourself later at night or early morning, whenever you are more productive.
- Set daily goals, which is a better way to track productivity anyway than the number of hours worked, and check if you have achieved those by the end of the day. This thinking will also help you delegate, seek help, manage expectations and embrace expectations
- If the kids are old enough, plan their days too, with their input if possible: a happy and engaged child means a relaxed and productive parent
- Plan your weekly menu, keep it smart, simple and slim. Use hacks like freezing and repeat meals, cooking one-pot meals to avoid unnecessary effort and above all, share responsibility for the cooking.
“I have created a plan for my son for a week to keep him busy.” - Anshika, Boy 5 yo
“I discuss with my kids at night what they liked in how they spent their day, and how they would like to spend the next one and then I plan it accordingly.” - Arpita, Girl 7 yo, Boy 5 yo
- Be transparent about your situation with all stakeholders; explain the context to the kids and how it changes their day-to-day lives, what your and indeed their responsibilities are, listen to their concerns; repeat with work stakeholders too, acclimate them to having your kids around on calls, etc. Remember that during this time everything, including your CEO and your boss are tackling the same challenges, for all you know, it could be a great ice-breaker if your kid pops up in the video conference for a bit.
- If you are someone who is used to working from home in the normal course but your partner isn’t, be prepared to coach them on it. Working from home during a lock-down is not easy, and those who have mastered working from home have an edge. They already know how to compartmentalise, know that with the freedom of working from home comes the accountability of delivering, have trained their family to perceive their working from home as no different from working in an office, etc.
- If you are a woman, resist the inertia of just taking on all the domestic chores on yourself. In our societies, even working women tend to put in many more hours into domestic work than men do. It may be relatively more manageable in the normal course of events, if ever there was a time to shake up the status quo, it is now. Work with your husband on the tasks and responsibilities he wants to pick up, build his capability on being able to do them if needed.
- At work, ensure you are visible and your work is seen, by sending regular updates. As someone I know recently said, your work never speaks for you, you have to speak for it. Especially while working from home.
“My child advised me to give her a 20 minute notice, when my play time with her was getting over and I needed to get back to work. ” - Deepa, Girl 6 yo
III) Practice Self-care
- Do not be too hard on yourself. At the end of the day everyone is going through the same situation, so don’t worry about the little things, whether at work or at home. Cleaning the house every alternate day, cooking one pot meal that everyone has for lunch and then again for dinner, when your child bangs your laptop shut in the middle of an important call, just logging back and starting again - these are all perfectly acceptable
- Make time for yourself too. Do something to get your daily dose of joy, whether it is by watching something on Netflix, reading or re-reading your favorites, a cup of great coffee, a virtual hang with friends or family, find your fix and deliver it to yourself
- Keep a positive attitude as much as is possible, there are upsides to this situation, like increased time with family, and it helps to remember that.
“Screen time - I'm being lenient for this time.” - Nithya, Girl 9 yo, Boy 5 yo
“Started more home yoga, a hot cup of coffee in the morning before everyone wakes up :) and remembering that we are in this together!! .” - Sonal, Boys 11 and 5 yo
It’s not easy but nothing transformational ever is. Yes the Coronavirus has forced us to undergo a transformation in how we work, how we share responsibilities, how we see the contributions of our domestic help, how we interact with our kids even. Some of these are short-term but some will likely outlast these lockdown and social distancing measures; many of these, hopefully for the better.
So don’t lose heart. Look out for each other in the family, for those in your ecosystem who may not have all that you do, and for those in the larger community who are facing the worst of it. The central philosophy to defeating viruses, on the basis of which vaccinations work, is “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. The lockdown is akin to getting vaccinated, it’s short-term pain to avoid a far more dangerous occurrence, and it stands to reason that we will emerge stronger.
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