By Shubika Bilkha
With lockdowns being extended week on week and limited clarity on the end of this pandemic globally, we have little choice but to readjust our lives and adapt to our new reality. While organisations have for a while been trying to prioritise supporting parents as they balance the demands of work and home, the new paradigm that we find ourselves in has added an additional hurdle for working parents, that of managing “life” not just “work” from home.
According to our global survey with Talking Talent conducted earlier, 76 per cent of new parents reported being sleep deprived, 70 per cent of millennial parents indicated that work pressure impacted the kind of parents they wanted to be, 67 per cent of women and 63 per cent of men experienced ‘working parent guilt’, and two-thirds of millennial parents believed that there was a gap between workplace messaging and the reality. Retention of women post maternity proved to be a consistent challenge across organisations globally, with only 50 per cent of women returning to work post-maternity and about half of them leaving within the first six months of returning.
If these numbers were not staggering enough, in our parental coaching practice where we have conducted sessions during the lockdown, we have seen this phase of life from home take a serious toll on working parents. A number of our clients during the lockdown are feeling overwhelmed, not supported enough, stressed, unable to find any quiet time, frustrated, not being able to focus or be present, feeling disorganised, unable to cope and struggling to find any form of a balance in their lives. With new parents and expecting mothers, we find a growing sense of anxiety about their own health and wellness together with a sense of insecurity around the future of their jobs.
As organisations and teams try to quickly adapt business models and expectations to the new reality, finding a way to support parents during the lockdown is becoming an increased focus. Providing the requisite support through coaching programs, counselling services and training to parents as they juggle multiple responsibilities under one roof, will only serve to maintain productivity, performance and employee well-being during this challenging time.
As we work with a number of people in our parental coaching and leadership development practice, here are some recommendations we make to parents to find some semblance of order as they manage their life at home:
It is important to identify a dedicated space within your home to make it your work-from-home zone. Get into the habit of doing all work-related activities from this zone and start by gradually training your family and children to your work-from-home zone. While there is no foolproof way to ensure your children don’t interrupt you, developing these boundaries and managing their expectations is a good starting point.
For all the perfectionists out there, it is key to remember that there is no acing the job of a parent and no way to perfectly manage life at home during this unprecedented time. We see a number of our clients trying to hit a 10 on work, life, being a parent and more during this time which is only serving to add stress and exhaustion to their lives, not to mention the potential impact on their emotional and mental health. Acknowledging your vulnerabilities, understanding that everyone is figuring this out and that imperfections only make you more human, will serve to make you relatable, present and reduce the overwhelm in your life.
Get a family routine going
From being consumed by the guilt of not spending enough time at home, working parents are now feeling challenged with too much time at home! If you don’t want your kids to get out of a routine, you can create one that mimics a regular school and work day. Make sure you also stop to enjoy this time with your family by engaging in fun activities and creating new memories as well.
In times of uncertainty, it is important to focus on the elements that we can control and let go of those outside our realm of control. While the emotional journey and challenge associated with being a parent is unmatched, it is important to remember that this is one of the most beautiful phases of life and to accept that there will be aspects of life that you will need to accept to meet your responsibilities in this realm.
Manage your time
While even the mere mention of this seems overwhelming to most parents, getting on top of your own time management is an important skill during this phase of life from home. Prioritising, saying no and being careful about how you spend your time is essential. Remember, you need to give time to be able to make time for the things that matter!
Build a professional ecosystem
While there is always the lure of mentors and support groups, the ecosystem that matters the most at a time like this is your team. Developing relationships within your team, being honest with them about your challenges, and keeping everyone in the loop on what you are working on will ensure that nothing drops in the event you need to rush off! This will also serve to build team trust and improve team dynamics. Not to mention, it also establishes you as a team player.
Build a shift system at home
It is important to remember that parenting is not a lone sport and to ask for help from all at home during this time. Whether you have a small baby or an older child who needs support with e-learning, create a shift system with your partner or family, if you live with them, so everyone can contribute. There is no shame or failure in asking for help during this time. Remember the famous saying, it takes a village to raise a child.
Build once, apply many
When trying to maximise our time make sure to minimise the unnecessary decision making. By setting processes for routine tasks or home administration during this phase, we can create more mind space for key decision making. Take a moment to identify areas where you can streamline, automate or just get done with a task in a few minutes. And then apply this across the board. Remember to limit postponing the more mundane tasks!
Appreciate yourself and your partner
In the mad rush of trying to manage this new reality of life from home, it is important to take a moment to appreciate how much you have done to keep the positivity and continuity in such a trying time in the world. Parenting is not easy on a normal day, and far less so when you are all confined to your home. Make sure to appreciate your partner or spouse or family too!
Enjoy the moment
In the midst of all of this negativity and uncertainty while trying to manage the different dimensions of work and life, it is easy to find ourselves caught up in the daily grind and stressing about just the basic process. This is when we need to consciously step up and out to make the effort to stay present, be grateful that we can spend these precious moments with our family and throw in a little fun into this life from home zone. While you are at it, take a moment to support those less fortunate who don’t have these opportunities of health, financial security and time with their family.
For organisations, creating an environment that supports, encourages and nurtures executives during this critical time in life is important for both individual wellbeing and organisational success.
(The writer is Partner, EdpowerU.)