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.
It’s August, which means it’s school holidays, which means the vast majority of parents are spending time with their kids on holiday.
For those that don’t have kids, or don’t have kids of school age, the schools holidays represent a welcome rest from the business of work. Things slow down, the commute is less busy and stressful, out of office replies lower expectations and there is a shared belief in the office that nothing is going to get done anytime soon.
The last couple of weeks have been well, lovely. Despite having to work when it feels like everyone else is away, I can’t help thinking that I wish working life could always be like this. The stalling of projects and reduced email traffic has meant I’ve had more time to contemplate and get stuck into things that have been on my to do list for months. I’ve thought about the rest of the year, set priorities and noticed where improvements need to be made.
As a result, not only have I gained the sense of satisfaction from completing several big pieces of work that I’ve been procrastinating on, but I also feel much less stressed. Calm is the order of the day.
It’s a shame my new found tranquility and efficiency is unlikely to last. However, there are lessons to be learned; slowing down can mean you get more things done, and not simply more emails sent, but more pieces of work ticked off your list. I am determined to keep up this mentality and focus. As one of my colleagues mentioned the other day “I hate emails; every time I send one, I seem to get one back”. What’s satisfying about that….
My son is not sleeping well at the moment which has come as quite a surprise. He is nearly 2 and a half and for the past 6 months we have been able to put him in his cot awake and walk out. Then we took him on holiday….
On holiday he didn’t sleep well which I put down to not wanted to go to bed, change of environment, heat etc. I came home more shattered than I did when I left but was looking forward to his first night back into his cot. I couldn’t have been more wrong. To cut the story short he has been in our bed since we got back two weeks ago, and I’m finally fed up with having my sleep disrupted by getting kicked in the head.
When I was on maternity leave it didn’t really matter, I could nap during the day. At work though it is a different story. I’ve found myself wearily boarding the train after 2-3 hours sleep and just trying to survive the day. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t face calling in sick with sleep deprivation.
Since this escapade began I’ve made several mistakes at work, haven’t been very focused and have just been doing the bare minimum to get by. And it is starting to get noticed. So this week, I’ve arranged to work from home all week and I’m going to end this saga once and for all.
So far it’s Mummy 2, Henry, 0! But this has involved countless techniques, most of which have failed and I’ve still had to rock him to sleep on the chair in his room (even after setting up a makeshift bed for me on his floor and holding his hand in his cot until both my arms went numb). I haven’t planned for this battle to go on any longer than this week, but am determined that the last two nights have not been in vain. I am going to win this!
And never take him on holiday again.
I love working from home; the time saved on the commute, the chance to eat decent meals, and the ability to catch up on housework during your lunch break make has made it seem every working parent’s dream.
Yet there are some days when I am at home when I wonder whether I’d rather be in the office. Sometimes this is because I bite off more than I can chew, end up multi-tasking all day and doing everything badly. Other times it’s because my two year old son is also in the house. Although under the supervision of his Dad, I spend the day trying to hide, which is easier said than done in our tiny flat. I can only dream of a home-office (currently it’s on my bed). There’s also the issue of cabin fever and when I’ve done a few days of intense work without leaving the house I start crave the outside world again and the time to daydream and read on the train which I don’t seem to prioritise at home.
When I went back to work after maternity leave and a long period of breastfeeding, just being out on my own to go to work and have a lunch break was very novel. I wouldn’t have minded being office based if I was working part time, so I still had some days at home. However, as I am working full time, 5 days a week, working from home has been an absolute god-send and I don’t know if I would have managed to keep my job otherwise.
Despite the minor issues, I feel very grateful to be able to do it. On a societal level, it can have a widespread impact in cutting down pollution by keeping cars off the road, benefitting the economy by reducing absence, as well as improving the wellbeing of workers. It also directly benefits the company itself through productivity gains and the need for less office space.
It’s all about the balance though, and sometimes I should just get my ass into the office.
I personally love the idea. Sometimes policies have to be spelt out and enforced for society to take them up, look at the smoking ban. Surely if we are a nation of exhausted and stressed out workers, being forced to take an extra day off every week has the potential to have massive benefits for our health.
The green party’s initial statement draws on the arguments that the three day weekend will combat wasted productivity and absenteeism that is rife across the UK’s workplaces. It’s a good point; everyone knows the feeling of being tied to an office during certain hours even though you could get the work done in half the time if properly incentivised. You stretch out your work to fill the time rather than vice versa.
In my very first job I was told to ‘look busy’. This was probably the best advice I’ve ever been given to finding my way in the world of work. Look busy, look important, make yourself indispensable…These ideas have become so engrained that most workers I know believe they are all these things too. My line manager voluntarily works at the weekend and gives up her annual leave because she is just ‘so busy’. I want to tell her that if she didn’t do this extra work the world would go on just fine, but to say something like this is almost insulting, as if I undervalue the importance of her work. In fact the opposite is true, I have such respect for her and I don’t want to see her unhappy.
It’s this mentality that drove the almost immediate sinking feeling in my stomach when this article first caught my eye. It is hard to believe that the three day weekend will happen, anytime soon at least. After all the progress we’ve made as a society in technological innovation and automation, it’s still being described as a ‘radical idea’.
But if the anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, we need to be forced to put our feet up.
It’s Monday 3rd April 2017. The new financial year is looming and it’s my first day back in the office after a long (an child free!) weekend in Copenhagen with my Husband (J). As I squeeze onto a packed commuter train to London I think it’s fair to say I have a case of the Monday blues.
But why do I feel so down? I try to remind myself of the positive things in my life. I enjoy my work in policy and communications and I am lucky enough to have landed with an employer who allows me to work from home a couple of times a week and are very understanding of the frequent ‘personal’ and compassionate leave you end up taking as a working parent. As a natural morning person I don’t even mind the early starts, and I’m back at my son’s (H) nursery to pick him up by 17.30 every day. Things aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.
But there has been something bugging me the past year since I started my new role. Before that I was a post-graduate student with a baby and was continually distracted by money worries, coursework deadlines, exam stress and rushing between home and work so as not to leave still breast-fed H for too long. Since starting ‘proper’ work, I’ve been able to buy healthier food without feeling guilty about the cost, have had more ‘me’ time thanks to the commute and lunch breaks, and H has enjoyed starting nursery two days a week and has built up a much closer relationship with J and my mother and law who both look after him one day a week. For the one remaining day of the week (which normally falls on Friday when everyone else seems to be slacking too), I wing both the childcare and work.
This idea of winging it is relatively new. Before that J was looking after H for two days a week and working Saturday instead. Although this saved us money, we both missed having weekends together. I was also started to resent Daddy-H days (or papadag as we also call them as the idea is very popular in Denmark). This was I get to spend time with him and feel like a proper parent without arranging an even more complex and convoluted working arrangement. For now, it seems to be working. No complaints from work (yet).
So what are your workable life arrangements? I’d like to hear. I hope this blog provides a wealth of inspiration for working parents (or those who have other interests outside of work they pursue) on how to make small changes to their routine that can hopefully make a big difference, although I can’t promise that you won’t be struck with a case of the Monday blues.