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15 Mar 2022
SOURCE: CPF Board
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in more ways than one. One of the main adjustments we had to make in our regular routine has been to work from home.
But does work from home (WFH), work for us?
Time saved on commutes, which means more time to sleep in. The flexibility to work in a familiar and comfortable environment. Exercising or taking a nap during lunch. Or taking a power nap during tea-break. You get the gist. There are countless ways to make the best out of your WFH experience.
But what happens when you throw a kid (or more) into the mix?
In a recent informal survey that we conducted amongst parents aged between 30 to 50, around 70% of respondents declared that they did not enjoy working at home with their kids around. Working from home brings another set of challenges, on top of their work responsibilities.
It’s not all doom and gloom for all parents though. Yes, there can be some downsides, but there are certainly silver linings as well. Here are some of the pros and cons straight from the horses’ mouths:
“I enjoy the ability to interact with my child whenever time avails. It is a great way to decompress and refocus over the course of an intense workday.” - Ivan
“I am able to witness their milestones in person and get more bonding time with them. And if work is not so demanding, time can be spent helping them with their work and doing more reading with them.” - Ivy
“Although I may not be able to interact with my children during office hours, I am able to perform some small gestures such as having lunch with them at home, ordering drinks as surprises and making conversation here and there. Sometimes we can even catch a short Netflix show together during lunch!” - Joanne
“Even when we get a break in-between meetings, I can't rest if the kids are home. From cooking their meals to feeding them to changing their diapers, there is no time for me to rest. When I try to, the kids start jumping on me. And when it comes to naptime, as a mother of three, I can say that it is almost impossible to make three little humans sleep at the same time. A will be talking, B will be crawling over A. C will be slapping B.” - Alexis
“It is impossible to have meetings, or even to focus. The most I can do is clear administrative emails that rely on muscle memory. My son is also rather clingy – he is a toddler after all – and wants interaction constantly.” - Cindi
“Not fun as it means you double up as the technician whenever Zoom links fail to connect.” – Wen Zhuo
For many, COVID-19 restrictions and the resulting WFH culture have created work-life imbalance. With travel time reduced, you are working more hours than before while managing other responsibilities. Like you, your spouse and kids are home too, and inevitably this means that your patience is being put to the test.
So how do you find a balance as a work-at-home parent?
The obvious first step is to plan! Prioritise the work that require your immediate attention and set aside a do-not-disturb time in order get those items done. Try to schedule important meetings – especially those where you have to host or present at – around your kids’ nap times.
You’ll also need to plan the schedules of your kids, to keep those little devils/angels at bay.
Engage them with some activities they enjoy, so that the interval between calling “Mama/Papa, I want…” can be lengthened. For example, borrow many books from the library to keep them occupied.
Plan what you can, but learn to be flexible. Things might not go as you intended, and this happens more often than not. Get ready a plan B or even C for times when your original plan falls apart. If you don’t have time to, it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up!
And even the best laid plans might not work, if there isn’t any support from the people around you. Which brings me to the next point.
Announce upfront to your family members whenever there are significant events in your calendar, like important meetings where you should not be disturbed, so that they know when not to intrude, and/or to keep their volume down.
You might feel like you can take on the world by yourself, but don’t. Work out a co-parenting WFH schedule with your spouse. You can also tap on your extended care-giving network aka your parents, provided they are willing to help.
Take time to also meet your friends – either to do something that takes your mind off your responsibilities at home, or simply to vent. That can do wonders for your stress levels.
In Asia, the brunt of the childcare duties usually falls on women, hence those who suffer during WFH are predominantly young mothers.
Julie, a mum of three, said, “My kids demand my attention constantly. And as a parent with lots of mum guilt, it really puts me in a dilemma the whole day. Should I prioritise my work over my baby and ignore her cries to finish my meeting? Or when my boy is crying his eyes out asking for me to play with him, should I play with him before continuing to do my work that is due today?"
WFH has led to blurring of work and personal time, which may result in affecting one’s mental health.
Therefore, establishing healthy boundaries should be non-negotiable. Life is not just about work and being a parent, so find the time to pursue your purpose in life and the things that make you tick. Being able to do what you are passionate about can give you that shot in the arm that you need to overcome the challenges you face daily.
Personal space can also manifest itself physically. Just as most offices are not designed to make you feel at home, not all our working environments at home can be productive in the way our offices are meant to be.
Carve up your own space that is just for work. Optimise that workspace, by decorating and designing it in the way that makes you feel good while working. Maybe buy a small table to set up your mini workstation or purchase the expensive noise-cancelling headset that you’ve being eyeing for a while now. Speaking of buying stuff…
Just like when you give your kids a snack or some screen time to reward them for doing well, treat yourself on occasion.
Be it indulging in your favourite food, having your regular fix of your favourite beverage, or binging on your favourite Netflix series, give yourself a pat in the back for being a great parent and professional! It helps to enjoy the little things every once in a while.
Most importantly, cut yourself some slack. Be ok with the mistakes made along the way.
Choose to focus on the good and celebrate the little moments, and you will have the best WFH experience.