All change

A survey shows widespread worry among homeworkers about going back to more structured hours and commuting.

flexi time


There was an interesting statistic in a recent survey from People Management. Apparently 44 per cent of employees are worried about reverting to more structured hours after the pandemic, with 57 per cent being concerned about the extra time taken up by commuting after returning to the office. That’s a lot of people.

For those people working from home over the last year and contending with all sorts the 9-5 has often gone completely out of the window. For some parents, however, when school and nurseries have been open there has at least been the vague structure of cramming as much as possible into something approaching normal hours, even if work has overflowed into the rest of the day. But during half term and holidays and if you haven’t had formal childcare things can tend to slip a bit. And that’s not to mention periods of furlough.

Time loses any real urgency if all you can do in the evenings is go for a walk or a run. There’s no reason to rush because nothing is going to close – it’s already closed. Days become baggy events where you twist and turn work things around home things and fall asleep in front of the latest Netflix series or re-run of 1980’s films.

Everyone, including children, goes to bed later than normal, everyone is tired despite there being nothing much to do [except work] and getting up seems harder and harder.

So how are we going to get back into a different, perhaps more structured routine and how easy is that going to be, given the summer holidays are just around the corner with six weeks of childcare to sort? Getting up at dawn to commute is going to be a big shock for many and those first weeks, even for those doing hybrid working, will be tiring. Expect less work to be done as people get used to the commute.

I’ve been working from home for years, but going into offices or cafes for meetings and I’m dreading how on earth I’m going to fit everything in. The workload seems to have burgeoned in lockdown and I can barely remember the rush of having to get out of meetings and back for the school pick-up in time. I am used to squeezing time, though, and tend to make use of every second – the tube is basically a change of office and is useful for catching up on work reading, even if you have to do it pressed against a window. The walk to the station is the perfect opportunity to catch up on personal calls. The bad news is that school meetings are also making a comeback so the five-minute-per-teacher zoomathon that was parents’ evening will take a couple of hours instead of half an hour.

The clock will once again become the enemy as we try to fit things into some kind of regular timetable and I will once more revert to being around two minutes late on all occasions.

But the good news is that many working mums have been here before. We had maternity leave and all the time chaos that caused, even if we tried to control it as much as was feasible. We emerged out of napping with the baby, being up half the night and total exhaustion into some kind of functioning work routine. It took a period of adjustment, but we got there. If there’s one thing parenthood does it is to train you to be resilient and adaptable, even if you don’t always feel that resilient. But change is always emotional and more so for some, depending on their circumstances.

The baby books are full of news of different ages and stages and how to adapt. This is just another stage, but for those who have relished working from home and are being forced back into the office, it might provoke a complete rethink. Many parents have been here before too – I know I spent many months, even years, trying to think of a way that I could have more time with my children. It’s important to remember, though, that while change can be difficult, it can also be the springboard to doing something totally new.

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