From the editor: Back to normal

With children back at school across the UK it’ll be easy to slip back into old routines. But we have to hope for better from post-Covid work

Man in black hoodie sat at computer with cat on the keyboard

 

Posting this blog a bit later than anticipated. Had technical problems. As I shouted and swore at my computer I suddenly paused, and realised that life had returned to normal.

Part of the reason for my rage was that the kids finally returned to school today and I was looking forward to six hours of peace and quiet to focus, order my thoughts and get on with work.

It didn’t go as planned.

Fury

After all the uncertainty of the last few months, after every single 2020 plan was upended somehow I could still summon fury at something as minor as a software glitch. Ironically it felt soothing to slip into such a well worn reaction.

After decanting to a local coffee shop on the off chance it was my internet connection that was the problem I was met with a familiar scene. Performative parents and noisy toddlers. They don’t tell you when you go freelance that one of the key contrasts with office life is that someone sharing your workspace might stand up and suddenly shout “I need a poo!” Actually, scrap that, I’ve worked in newspaper offices where colleagues have shouted worse.

(One new experience in the coffee shop was the scene at the table next to me where a mum was breaking the news to her kids that mummy and daddy were getting divorced. The sad toll of lockdown no doubt. Something the official statistics may miss. And a topic for a future blog.)

Worrying

So there was something pleasant about familiar emotions, places, scenes. But something deeply worrying.

Falling back into old routines will be the worst possible outcome from this pandemic.

We as a society have already lost so much. Not just freedom and familiarity but mainly, of course, all the loved ones who lost their lives.

The government seems keen to get ‘back to normal’. We working dads must resist. Because we have to hope for a different, better set up in the future. We must identify the good things that have happened this year, and embed them.

Flexible working

So employers have had to recognise that their employees have lives, responsibilities outwith the workplace. Hopefully they’ll bear that in mind going forward and continue to treat employees with empathy.

Working dads in particular have been forced to embrace flexible work and homeworking. And many have enjoyed it. Given a choice between an hour commute or a more relaxed family breakfast almost all men now favour the former.

And we’ve come to recognise what’s good about workplaces. Few folk want to keep working from home full time. Because when it was taken away from us we came to appreciate what’s good about working outside the home – everything mentioned in that notorious Dettol ad actually – but also to understand we don’t need or want to be there all the time.

Gains

There are other gains. Please leave a comment with your own ideas about what we should keep in the post-Covid world.

Agility, empathy, family. These are things worth standing up for. Employers will benefit if they embrace them. Employees must not be afraid to make the case for them. And government must recognise that we working dads don’t want to go ‘back to normal’.





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