Coronavirus has altered the world of work certainly for the foreseeable future and maybe even more fundamentally. Here’s some help for navigating this new reality
Well, here we go. The schools are shut. Many working dads are working from home. And everyone is going to have to jog along together and get their work done.
Along with Mandy Garner, editor of our sister site workingmums.co.uk we’ve looked at some of the issues coming down the track over the next few months as coronavirus takes hold.
And we’ve tried to come up with a few solutions, tips and important steps to remember as we go into a new experience of work for everyone.
When it comes to parents who are working from home, there are several logistical issues. Getting food when you are self isolation is going to be a tricky one for example. The whole family being cooped up together will be challenging enough, you don’t want to make it harder by having everyone hangry.
And fundamentally no-one knows what they’re doing. None of us have been through anything like this before. So support is vital.
We may be an unlucky generation to get hit by this pandemic. But on the plus side we’re the first generation with internet access. Get connected.
If you’re not already on a class WhatsApp group get one organised. And that applies particularly to dads. Too often the mental load of keeping on top of school stuff falls on mums. That’s got to change. And that’s an opportunity for dads to get more involved in school stuff.
And there’s lots of Facebook groups out there full of advice. Though they can be a bit overwhelming with parents showing off all the wonderful ways they are entertaining their kids. So approach with caution.
And if people in those groups need your help now then muck in. Because there’s a good chance in the next few weeks it’ll be you self isolating and in need of a packet of biscuits left on the doorstep.
Be under no illusions: this is going to be hard. It will depend on your children’s ages, the number of children you have, your children’s need for support, whether there are two parents at home who can alternate duties etc. Older kids can help younger ones with peer learning. Much information is available online, including links to home schooling support groups, and your children’s school will probably organise for work to be sent over. But what if you don’t have sufficient laptops? You may have to do things in shifts or, again, collaborate with friends and neighbours. Community is going to come into its own.
It is very difficult to homeschool while simultaneously working so you are likely to have to do shifts, working around homeschooling. There may be work you can set your child which frees you up to do some of your own work – tasks like reading comprehensions, etc. Once you have explained the basics, they can do some exercises on their own and then you can go through them with them, for instance. This may be difficult the older your children are, but hopefully their teachers will send links to online resources.
They are going to happen. Those on the other end will hopefully be understanding if you’re required to help out with a school project. We’ve a full list of top tips to doing this well here. But most importantly get to grips with the mute button in advance. When they are allowed back into work expect plenty of comedians to making jokes about conference calls in which the mute button wasn’t used, and for the first time the whole audience will get those jokes.
For people with toddlers and babies: working while juggling childcare is extremely difficult. You’ll likely have to take advantage of any sleep or down times to do work. Odd hours are inevitable eg early mornings and late evenings, but go with the flow as far as possible. Although you don’t want to overdo this as sleep is vital for health. You will find yourself getting very good at focusing very quickly and getting a lot done in a very short time period. Use the time when kids are sleeping/glued to a film [do NOT feel guilty about the latter] to get the tasks which require most mental concentration done. Things like checking emails can be done more easily with children around.
Generally, the more you can club together with other parents in the same boat the easier it will be. But coronavirus works against this plan. It looks like kids can buddy up and play together. So if they are old enough they can go for a bike ride through the park maintaining the correct level of social distancing.
It’s not clear yet what the testing regime will be for determining who has or has not had the virus. But if your child has had it they may be good to return to society and play with other kids who’ve had it, or even those who have not. Keep an eye on the official guidance.
For elderly relatives, it is important to ensure they have enough food. Order online well ahead of need as online ordering slots are already largely full and take advantage of any schemes aimed at getting food to those least able to brave the supermarket lines. Keep in regular contact.
There may also be local volunteers you or they can contact via the council or other bodies, such as Age UK. Try and organise some sort of local back-up if you don’t live nearby as well as access to information in case things change and health service helplines are overwhelmed. This will also give you peace of mind.
Again often this sort of care falls on women. But with everyone at home and hopefully mucking in together working dads can step up in this crisis.
With everyone in the same house it’s going to be hard to get alone time. But everyone needs it. It may feel silly at this stage but it’s probably a good idea to start a rota of who gets to be left alone (if they want to be). Perhaps everyone gets one hour in the living room each day. Or maybe get the kids to make ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs (and make your own) and make a rule that when those signs up on bedroom doors they must be respected.
There’s going to be fall outs, squabbles and bust ups along the way in this experience unfortunately. But being able to put some space between you all will help. As will just generally being forgiving and understanding. Good luck.