This blog is a rolling commentary of working life in the UK and abroad, the meaning we attach to work, and the impact this has on the rest of our lives. As a working mum, I am always looking at ways to improve my life-work balance in the ever evolving world of work.
Today I found myself carrying my open laptop to the local pool whilst hot spotting off my phone. The reason for this is that we have Microsoft Lync which is a hideous form of software that allows anyone in the organisation to see when you are online at your computer. I’m sure it definitely deters people from going out when they should be working from home, but not me! I came up with a plan B.
I’ve been doing the hot spotting thing for a while, it turns out Maclaren buggys are the perfect size to balance a laptop on the hood. The fit is nice and secure and you can mount and dis-mount curbs without fear of the laptop smashing onto the concrete below. It’s allowed my son and I some trips out whilst I’m getting paid.
Today I was without child, and wanted to go for a swim. Alas – no buggy to balance the laptop. So instead I carried it there. It was quite awkward, especially as I stopped to pick up afew things from the shops on my way and was essentially an arm down. I made it to the pool though and was very pleased with myself when I had it set up in the locker, still hot spotting and still displaying ‘online’ on my Lync profile, while I was in my bikini about to jump in the pool.
On the way home I had a total stroke of genius and managed to keep the laptop open on its side in my rucksack with my swimming stuff wedged between it to avoid it shutting. I did the entire hour and a half round trip without ever being away from my desk.
When I told my husband about my successful trip out upon his return from work he wondered why I had gone to such lengths, pointing out that I’m entitled to a lunch break and my employer should be encouraging me to do exercise. What was the big deal and why did I bother to go to such lengths? His company allows employees to take an extended lunch break if they want to exercise and make up the time later in the day. Ordinarily I wouldn’t find it an issue being offline at some point between 12-2. My swim was at 3-4pm though as that was when there was lane swimming. Is it acceptable to block out time in your diary for exercise at any point in the day? I’d like to think so, but then looking back on my actions it would appear I think not….
After my first week back in the office for several months I wanted to take the time to reflect on what I love about my work. To be honest, I was really dreading going back in, in the same way that returning to work after illness gives you that uneasy feeling in your stomach. I felt on the defensive, and was telling myself it was like ripping off a plaster; I just had to get the first day done and things would return to normal.
It’s only when I got to the office that I realised that I don’t know why I’d been worrying so much about it, for the following reasons:
I work with an absolutely lovely team of people. I am introverted and keep myself to myself, but I feel relaxed around the people I work with which is a testament to them. My manager gave me a big hug on arrival and I’ve enjoyed catching up with the team.
The office. I over hear people complaining about it quite frequently but I actually really like our office. It’s massive, you can choose to work where you want, and the canteen food is really tasty and reasonably priced.
I have autonomy over my working day. I forgot that just because I am in the office doesn’t mean I lose the autonomy I get when working from home. Despite the meetings, I get to decide what work I do when, and can fit these tasks around my day.
Ending the day and leaving the office with job satisfaction. Part of being able to have my own schedule to some extent means I work efficiently and get lots done. This last week I achieved much more at work than I had been at home because of the time pressure of getting tasks done in between meetings, and the accountability that being in the office brings.
The commute. It’s a love hate relationship depending on whether the trains are running to schedule but if all goes to plan I get two hours a day to read, write and daydream. It’s hard to give myself that much time to relax at home without feeling guilty.
I realise these reasons are not about the work itself but more to do with the social and environmental aspects of my job, but this demonstrates that these factors are significant. As much as I do also enjoy the work that I do, that’s the same whether I’m at home or in the office.
As part of my job I manage a professional twitter account. This involves constant interaction with individuals who are tweeting from their personal account, about their work…
With all social media the line between work and life is increasingly blurred. Twitter, for me, seems to be the channel where there is no line. My organisation are increasingly encouraging the workforce to sign up and use it as a way to engage and for those in leadership and managerial positions, even as part of their role. I’m not a natural on social media, it’s something that requires effort. I would say my performance on twitter is mediocre at best, but I find it interesting how much influence employers can put on their employees to use, or not use it as the case may be.
My gut feeling is that employees should not be missing out on anything by not using social media, or given brownie points for using it. Of course, the opposite is exactly what seems to be happening. One of my tasks for this week is to create a one page handout titled ‘Welcome to the world of social media’ for our new ambassadors to encourage them to ‘get social’. I can feel the resentment building up inside me and feel sorry for those who haven’t got a professional account to hide behind. I don’t want to be reading tweets from work in bed or at the weekend thank you very much, why should they?
For now I seem to be just about scraping by with the help of scheduling software which helps get messages out on a regular basis. But there’s no real interaction, and that’s starting to show. Hopefully by the time anyone has realised I’m actually no good at using social media I’ll be on maternity leave. At the speed that the sector changes it will all have changed on my return surely. I’ll think about it later…
It’s the first full working week in September which means everyone’s feeling a bit down in the dumps after the summer. The weather hasn’t helped, which has been mainly grey and miserable. It’s interesting how September can bring similar prospects to a new year. School kids across the country will be re-inventing themselves in the year above, with parents footing the bill for new shoes, uniform and stationary (I used to love organising my new pencil case every year!). But for those of us at work, life seems to bumble on with not much change. Although things may seem busier with everyone returning from leave, the re-introduction of routine outside work brings welcomed normality.
This year I feel slightly disconnected from it all. I’m still working from home due to pregnancy related hypotension and don’t risk my chances at making it to the offie without fainting on route. It’s been hard to find the back to school momentum I sorely need with the take off of several projects set for delivery early next year. I’ve got even less time – 13 weeks and counting until I’m on maternity leave and the expectation is that everything my end is going to be prepped and ready to go. Whilst I enjoy my work, it’s hard to give yourself that commitment boost when you are 6 months pregnant. The reality is, I just want to wash all the baby clothes and organise the chest of drawers in preparation for delivery day (of the baby that is).
I think it will help when I do eventually return to the office. Then there will be even less time and the pressure will be on. Hopefully that should help the weeks fly by. I’m reminding myself that soon the nights will start drawing in and it will be too cold to appreciate the breeze coming in my bedroom window. Maybe this year it’s ok not to get swept up in the back to school saga and instead drag out the carefree attitude in summer for a little while longer.
I’ve been keeping on top of the gender pay gap discussions over the past weeks since the BBC announced the salaries of it’s top earners. This has seemed to generate a massive amount of public debate. This morning, BBC Radio 4 hosted a discussion on gender stereotyping children and the impact this has on confidence, wellbeing, career choice and as a result, pay.
As a parent, I’m sure I’m not alone in daydreaming about what type of person my son is going to grow up to be and what he will do for work, based on what I think he is good at. At the grand age of 2 and a half I have noticed he is very dextrous with his hands and as a result I’ve already decided to buy him a BRIO builder construction set for Christmas this year. I can only wonder if I would do the same if I had a girl who showed similar traits.
After reading and hearing about people’s gendered experiences of skills, schooling and work, it’s hard to admit but I felt a sigh of relief that I am raising a boy, with another one on the way. The gender gap seems to predominantly disadvantage girls. However, boys aren’t completely off the hook. I don’t want to raise a boy who feels he has to fit in to a certain type of masculinity. want him to be able to express his feelings and not to feel he has to be brave all the time. I’ve made a mental note to tell my husband to let him see him cry.
Yesterday I caught myself encouraging my son to choose the blue gingerbread boys over the pink gingerbread girls at Waitrose. I just did it automatically. Despite my subtle comments he chose pink, and I’m glad. Who knows what he’ll end up doing for work. I just hope that I don’t subconsciously push him to do something because he is a boy.
After reading your article I’d thought I’d get in touch to offer the other end of the spectrum on weight based discrimination at work to being obese.
I have always been very petite thanks to having a fast metabolism and being a keen runner. My BMI is just on the borderline of underweight and normal weight but I’ve never been concerned about it as I am perfectly healthy and eat when I’m hungry.
However, I ended up having surgery for hernia earlier on in the year which resulted in 3 weeks off work during a very busy time. On my return, I overheard several people talking about my weight and a member of the senior management directly told me that I needed to eat and wasn’t looking after myself properly and that she should be my proxy mother!
I felt absolutely outraged that I was being blamed for the surgery as if it was linked to my weight. I ended up just walking away and not doing anything about it. I am constantly snacking at work and people always feel they can comment ok what I’m eating and my body image because I’m thin, when they would never dream of doing that to someone who was over weight.
Yesterday I overheard on BBC Radio 2 that women are more likely to feel guilty calling in sick for work, even when they are. This got me thinking.
For the past 3 weeks I have been working from home due to pregnancy related orthostatic hypotension, or in other words feeling faint from having very low blood pressure. The office have been really understanding, but as of yesterday I felt the need to visit my GP and request a note to continue working from home as my blood pressure is not showing any signs of coming up anytime soon.
On the one hand I feel entitled to be able to do this, and have reassured myself that my health and the baby comes first. On the other hand I feel cheeky and lazy, and have been worrying about the reputational issues at stake and the likelihood of coming across as uncommitted. Also, returning to work after a long period away is never nice and I’ve got a feeling that the longer I put it off the worse it’s going to be.
When it comes down to it though, I don’t really have much of a choice. I’m highly likely to faint on the commute or in the office so I should just enjoy this time and stop feeling so guilty, but I can’t seem to shake it off.