‘Children are flesh and blood, not robots’ – navigate working from home with this excerpt from Future-proof Yourself by Nikki Bush
More about the book!
Penguin Random House has shared an excerpt from Future-proof Yourself by internationally recognised parenting expert, author, thought leader and human potential expert Nikki Bush.
When things change dramatically, they rarely, if ever, go back to ‘normal’. Disruption demands that we let go of the past and step into a new way of being.
When last did you get lost? We rarely do in the era of Google Maps and Waze, but satellite navigation systems are of no use when disruption turns our lives upside down. When swirling mists of uncertainty block our view of the future, we might question our ability to cope. But with awareness, determination and practise we can improve our competence, build our resilience and confidence, and gain a sense of control, even when everything feels out of control.
Whether your life has been disrupted by death, divorce, disease, Covid-19 lockdown, working from home, moving town, starting a new job, or any of a host of other disruptive events that can either make or break you, this book will guide you to the best possible outcome. Disruption is never comfortable, but regardless of whether it is positive or negative, it is a catalyst for change.
Future-proof Yourself provides simple but effective lessons and frameworks to help you future-proof yourself to win at both work and life. Dip into chapters on disruption, remote working, resilience, teamwork, leadership and family, and learn how to remain focused, utilise pressure and create a recipe for personal success. A distillation of Nikki Bush’s professional insights as a human-potential and parenting expert, combined with her personal honesty and vulnerability, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to harness their courage and curiosity to build a rewarding, fulfilling future for themselves – no matter what life throws at them.
Read the excerpt:
Working from home has become the new norm and is easier for some than for others. Without doubt, logistically it is easier for those without children or who have much older children. Emotionally, however, it may be harder from a loneliness perspective when work and life are taking place in the same physical space continuously without company. Do spare a special thought, though, for those with babies, pre-schoolers or young primary-school children who need constant supervision or assistance.
When you have set yourself up on purpose to work from home with kids, you put things in place: a separate office, a house that is big enough, childcare assistance and school. However, the pandemic lockdown put people in a position where these preparations were largely absent, forcing work-from-home parents to work under demanding and less-than-ideal conditions for
productivity and performance.
The daily reality of working from home with kids means that team members need to do any deep work for business that requires focus and attention to detail before the children wake up in the morning and after they go to bed at night. During their children’s waking hours they will only be able to handle small tasks in short bursts, unless they have domestic help available or they have a partner or spouse who is also working from home and can work and do childcare or supervision in relays with this person.
Employees who have children at home will be more exhausted than ever, as they haven’t had much time to adjust to their new working and living conditions. Right now, employees are feeling drained by the general feeling of panic and fear that is everywhere. Even a year into the pandemic, many questions will be running through their heads all the time:
- Will the world go back to normal?
- What will the world look like then?
- Will my company still be in business?
- Will I still have a job?
- Will my salary be cut?
- How long will I have to keep on working from home?
- How long will my children be at home and not at school?
- Will I or a member of my family become ill?
Many employees who are now working from home don’t have dedicated home offices with doors that close. They are having to work in their bedrooms or in common family areas, which means they don’t have privacy or guaranteed peace and quiet. It is exhausting. I know this, because I was in a similar position for the first few months of lockdown: I had to turn my open-plan lounge into my office-cum-TV studio for presenting virtually. My workspace was right in the centre of my home. Pre-pandemic my eldest son was overseas, and my youngest was away at university. During the first lockdown they were both home in our small rented cluster house. (We had to sell our large home of twenty-three years after my husband’s death.)
I had endless distractions and interruptions – from gaming and TV to someone making a meal in the kitchen or walking past and wanting to chat. When I needed to present live on camera, everyone had to shut up, go to their rooms, and not use the internet to give me priority to work and earn a living. Stress levels were sky-high. This is real life for many working parents
UNDERSTANDING YOUR EMPLOYEES AND TEAM MEMBERS
If you are a business owner, employer or team manager, here are some insights to help you understand how to make the best of the situation and to journey more effectively together with your team.
- It is key that you know your individual employees.
- How many children are they managing at home?
- What ages are the children?
- Do they have live-in adult assistance or domestic help at this time?
- Are they a single parent?
- Do they have a spouse or partner who will be sharing the space with them?
- Will that person be able to share childcare responsibilities?
- For people who previously spent only two to three hours with their children on a normal workday, spending twenty-four hours a day together is challenging
- While most working parents usually carry a mantle of guilt because they don’t think they spend enough time with their children, now that they have been given more time with their children, albeit under the strangest of circumstances, they are pretty freaked out by it because of the implications for their productivity and not being used to spending so much time with their kids; this is the Covid-19 parenting paradox
- Your team members are working with new schedules, new systems, new working environments (often without a dedicated home office) and new forms of interference
- New interferences will include:
- device-sharing with children who are doing online schooling or with a spouse or partner
- poor bandwidth or no data
- Emotionally, they are also in a state of
- Parents who are working remotely from home will have much longer days than usual while they adjust to a new rhythm and routine, and they will be tired
- Their days will not run in a straightforward, linear fashion: they will be filled with many interruptions that neither you nor they can necessarily control
- Parents will be doing their work in chunks, often getting up to do it early before the children wake, or staying up late to do it after the children have gone to sleep. Having worked from home with children for twenty-five years, I know this for a fact. Many of my colleagues who have also run businesses from home (some up to medium-sized enterprises) attest to the same. This is just the way it is.
Businesses, by and large, are not built around the health of family life and children’s developmental needs. But perhaps one of the positive spinoffs of the pandemic will be that the human resources playbook will be rewritten to be more supportive of work–life integration. Here are some high-level insights to bear in mind when you are working with remote-working parents with kids that will make you more empathetic as a boss or a colleague.
Children are flesh and blood, not robots
Children are not robots or computers who can be programmed to run on their own or not interrupt their parents while they work. Children are also feeling frightened and anxious at this time. They will need more attention than usual from their parents – their routine has been turned upside down; they can’t see their friends; often they won’t be going to school and are stuck at home with parents who are stressed, need to work and are not much fun to be with.
Children have shorter concentration spans than adults
We must be realistic about a child’s ability to concentrate and get on with doing things by themselves. This is vitally important to know, as it is rarely taken into consideration by employers or the parents they employ. It is the source of much frustration, which could be diffused with a little more understanding. An understanding of children’s different ages and stages is useful here.
Children acquire about a minute and a half ’s concentration for every year of their life – they learn how to concentrate on activities for longer periods than that with adult interaction at home and at school to keep them focused.
Now that you have fallen off your chair, get back on again and continue reading:
- Children from birth to three years will need almost constant supervision unless they are sleeping
- Children from three to five years of age may be able to entertain themselves for five to fifteen minutes at a time (age- and skill-dependent), without supervision, if you are lucky
- Under-fives need a lot of attention; this is not abnormal, because they need stimulation and environmental feedback to make sense of the world; they will also be very busy. It’s called childhood – not necessarily ADD!
- Only by Grade 1 can children focus for a full fifteen to twenty minutes on an activity without much supervision; even then, this would have to be a game or school activity they have already mastered, not something new
- From six to nine years onwards, children are able to entertain themselves for longer periods. They will need some help doing schoolwork from home, and you will need to assist them with setting up their workspace and settling them into an activity or help out as the need arises, which it will
- Parents with children between nine and twelve years of age will be able to settle their children with an activity (play or academic) for about twenty to thirty minutes at a time, but they will still need some direction and supervision – although they will interrupt their parents less
- Teens will be able to entertain themselves and should be able to manage their academic timetable with much less help from their parents, although they may still get stuck. Parents will find themselves in a supervisory role here: they will stress about monitoring their teens’ need to socialise online and the possibility that they might overdose on screen time, and may feel like they are in the dark if their child is not communicating with them.