Head in the clouds

Xanthe Duncan

Working from home is not new to me; I'm lucky enough to have a supportive manager who has enabled me to work from home on a regular basis for the last few years, however neither of us ever imagined that working from home would become a permanent thing, and certainly not with two children (aged 7 and 3) and a husband also at home. 

Our seven-year-old is ‘at school’, thankfully not at an age where his schooling would be significantly impacted should we choose not to educate him for a few months, but behaviourally he needs the structure that school provides.  I’m not really ‘home-schooling’ and I’m sure that many parents who’ve found themselves in the same situation are also not home-schooling.  What we’re doing is facilitating his education via his teachers.  I’m so grateful for Google Classroom which has made this transition so much easier, as have the teaching staff behind it, who had almost as much warning as we did that they’d no longer be able to have contact with their classes every day.  The first week was a little bumpy as staff, pupils and parents all got to grips with the new technology and the new ways of communicating, but fast forward a few weeks and it’s all bedded in nicely.

A few of the unexpected challenges we've encountered so far included my husband starting a new job the day lockdown officially commenced, two of us trying to undertake desk-based jobs with only one desk and one laptop between us, several new applications to get to grips with very quickly, balancing work, home and schooling, not to mention having a three-year-old running around at a loose end, regressing as each week goes by.  Not her fault, of course, but how do you explain the way the whole world has changed in just a few short weeks?  I’m not able to cope with it every day; I sometimes have a good cry just out of frustration, but then I try to use that as my ‘reset button’ and start again. 

Solutions we’ve tried to date have included setting up our home office in the loft, ensuring that my husband and I can physically leave our work behind us at the end of the day, and setting up our 8-person tent in the back garden so that we have an extra space in which to work/play/sleep as we need to.  Thankfully, the weather has been kind to us, though I suspect the lawn will take some time to recover.  Recently, with my husband out at wind and solar farms throughout Scotland during the week, our original schedule of working in two hour ‘shifts’ has had to be significantly amended.  I’m now doing the bulk of my work on a weekend, and then monitoring my emails through the week whilst ‘home-alone’ with the children.  Not ideal but then, what’s a weekend anymore?  We can’t go to the places we used to visit, like the museums or castles prevalent in East Lothian, but the kids are getting the dedicated attention from one parent they so desperately need in these very unsettling times, and I’m feeling less guilty about trying to juggle my work, school-work, and the needs of a three year old when my husband’s at work.  It’s not going to be forever, but we have to find a way that works for us at this time, and there is no ‘one size fits all’.  It’s why flexible working exists after all.

This is a great period of learning for the world in so many ways, but are we really making the most of the opportunities presented?  I’ve ‘mindfully’ given myself the time to undertake some training courses that I’ve had my eye on for a long time but have never been able to justify before (courtesy of Positive People whose training is offered through QMU’s DEVELOP platform).  It’s unbelievable isn’t it, but, having done the courses, I’m now using my ‘To Do’ list effectively, I’ve finally taken control of my inbox and I'm even learning about OneNote and discovering its potential.  I’m not sure it should have taken a global pandemic for me to get into gear and up-to-speed with technology that’s been readily available for some time, but if it helps me to be more productive, then I’d be daft to pass up this opportunity wouldn’t I?

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