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What it all boils down to – balance!

Publication Date: Apr 30, 2020
 


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Written by: Sharon Vassallo  

sharon.jpgYear 2019 professionally started for me with a different modus operandi. I started my teleworking experience with MITA whereby I was given the facility to work 10 hours from the office and another 10 hours from home to care for my growing family. This was my first experience working remotely; which, thankfully is an opportunity to keep on working and keep my career going, but it also is quite a challenge.  It requires disciplined organisational skills to keep up with the demands at work; especially when simultaneously taking care of a new-born.  Picture this: nappy changes, tantrum cries, feeds, and overwhelming stress of doing it for the first time; whilst answering calls with the office and clients, writing logical code and making sure that all this is delivered in a timely manner and as effectively as possible. Not a walk in the park, I assure.

Now that the pandemic COVID-19 virus suddenly hit the world, many companies and employers have changed to this new modus operandi.  People need to relearn how to function in a completely different environment. Having experienced all this juggling of remote work and family responsibilities for the past couple of months, I would like to share some tips of how one can balance living in the current circumstances.

Create Your Own Home Office

Having my own space is very important.  Partly because I can organise it in a similar way to what I have in the office.  However, it is also a space in my home which signifies work and professionalism.  This, to me, is paramount, as it helps me segregate the home environment and all the responsibilities that come with it versus the workspace.  This means that when I am in this space, family members know that I’m in the ‘do not disturb’ zone.  It is also a way to show the young one, that when mummy sits by this desk, there will be no cuddling or playtime.  As mentioned earlier, having the appropriate set-up is key. Being a software developer means a lot of screen time, therefore being comfortable is conducive to productivity. Having an employer who truly supports work-life balance is always a plus.  For example, MITA has allowed its employees to set-up their home environment with equipment from the office; say a large monitor or an ergonomic chair. This allows for those employees who had never worked from home for more then a day or two, to set-up a comfy home office; whilst not needing to spend a pretty penny to do so.   

Waking Up Early

One thing I have learned throughout last year was that whilst the baby is still asleep, then that is when time becomes more precious than gold.  This is the right time to prioritize the work. Waking up before the sun up helps me to hit the ground running on tasks that require some peace and quiet.  With a couple of hours under my belt and a chunk of tasks completed, I feel less guilty when the baby wakes for feeding or even demand some attention. My husband is also working from home; which allows us to carry out home chores in turn, depending on our work schedules and deadlines.  One thing I do not miss is that dreadful time wasted commuting to and from the office.  That time has now shifted to us spending it being more productive and being able to shift my attention between work and home responsibilities in a seamless manner.

Take frequent breaks

young-mother-working-from-home-laptop-with-her-little-son_1303-20184.jpgWe can easily fall into the trap of working longer hours without realising, simply because we are indeed working in our homes.  However, even as quoted by many healthcare organisations, it is important to get off your seat and stretch for a couple of minutes, or simply change the environment for a couple of minutes.  I made it a point that I do so.  Reality is that kids are constantly finding ways to eat away from your time to keep them entertained.  Doing this has mainly two benefits from my experience.  The first is that I don’t tire myself for long hours at one go; keeping a fresh mind and the second is that with frequent breaks it is less likely that my kid will get bored and fall into attention tantrums.  Another valuable point to mention is to bring the art of planning into a habit.  With a full time job and a very hands-on parent, planning my day is very important.  Needless to say, that not every day is possible to execute to plan, but then the art of improvisation is also another skill that I had to acquire very quickly.

Communication is second to none

Suddenly, if it was even possible, communication has become the most important skill to master, and very quickly.  Working remotely means that everyone is now relying on technology to communicate; which in itself is a barrier.  Not everyone is comfortable to switch on the camera, not all expressions can be read, and body language could be close to impossible to decipher.  The silver lining of Covid-19 is perhaps that everyone is in it together; putting everyone in the same boat.  Therefore, difficulty in communication is across all conversations and everyone can start to learn how to adapt as we go along.  The important thing at this point is not to take the knack of conversation for granted and to avoid making assumptions on how clear things are being cognised.  Another important skill to ace here is to learn how to ask questions; never mind how smart they are but to ask regardless.  The speaker will thank you for some feedback – rest assured. 

It is also important to keep in touch with colleagues and my manager, not just for work briefings but also socially like when we are at work and “share” a coffee and a few jokes and, why not also a “happy hour” after work!

A last point that I wish to convey is the important notion of remaining curious and well read; especially during these times.  It is easy to fall into a dangerous routine, day in day out, missing what day it is; simply because calendar does not matter anymore.  Keeping positive and attuned to what inspires us and intrigues us, is a healthy way of moving forward and getting through this current hurdle whilst ensuring that what matters to us is being counted for. 

 

 

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