Home Office – the key to spending more time with your family?
Imagine it´s 9 am and no one goes to work.
Currently approximately 25% of the German working population is working from home. In March 2020, we had 45 billion people registered as gainful workers, a total of 11, 25 billion people, working from home. Every day. Plus approx. 11 billion students, registered for schoolyear 2019/20. Compared to our total population of 80 billion, that´s over 25% of the German population. This is a huge number.
Talking to people, you get different opinions on home-office. Some enjoy the extra time with their family, others try to flee the daily business and sit under the roof in a tiny office or hide in the basement. „Home Office is not romantic“, said Germanys Secretary of Labor Hubertus Heil, lately, thinking of Mum´s and Dads trying to cope with their business, while supporting their kids with homeschooling tasks.
It all depends on the view.
If both parents are working from home, it can be a real challenge. Especially younger kids, need more support to fulfill their school tasks or get entertained. Without the possibility to rely on child care, grand parents or having a break outside on the playgrounds, the parents are in charge the whole day. During the last 2 months, the families had to adjust. New routines had to be defined, old role models had to be revised. For many, it was a huge effort, for others it was a chance.
I was lucky. My husband played an active role in our household. We started to share responsibilities for cooking, grocery shopping and homeschooling the kids. With three kids in the household, one-person can´t be everywhere. The kids and I appreciated the fact, that he was more available and would not just leave the house at 8.30 and come back at 7.15. For us, this is was a precious time. On the other hand, he very much enjoyed learning new things (cooking without the BBQ) and spending more time with the family during weekdays.
If you equally share responsibilities, each partner realizes how much work the other side has. The effort in cooking a proper meal with fresh vegetables, or on the other hand: being in online calls in front of your laptop all day. It is always easy to think you have worst part, if you don´t now, what your partner is going through. Sharing responsibilities can open the view.
What if everyone returns to work?
“What will happen, if they slowly start to reopen the shops and everyone goes back to work?”, I asked my husband the other day, when we had no idea, when the kids would be able to restart school. “Do you have to go back to work, soon?”
Honestly, I was a bit worried. Being alone again with the kids, taking care of schoolwork and household, while trying to keep up with the writing routine, wasn´t a very appealing thought. But his Company had decided to keep the home office model for now, knowing, that a lot of employees have kids and going back to work would bring them into trouble. In addition, the home office did work very well and they also wanted to support the effort to diminish the Corona virus infections as best as they can. This is a very modern thought.
We have heard from other examples, where Companies rushing to bring their employees back to offices. Trying to come back to “work as usual”.
Also, public officials, who were directed to set a sign, coming to work, while everyone else is in home-office. Is this the right sign?
Installing a new “work as usual”.
We are far away from work as usual. Watching the news, you immediately realize that until we have immunization, our lives won´t be as they were before. We have to adjust to the new circumstances and sharing the workload can be a good solution. It can be very rewarding to play a game with the kids in between calls or enjoying lunch on the terrace together. This doesn´t mean you work less in the remaining hours. Shouldn´t we try to keep at least some of it?
I very much hope, that from this perspective, the quarantine time was not in vain. I trust, that Companies support their employees finding flexible work models, which can easily be combined with family life. Especially executives with managerial responsibilities, should have realized, how much they miss out, when heading off to work early in the morning and coming back after the kids had gone to bed.
We actively have to shift our perspectives, to encounter real change.
In Germany, a lot of families still live the classic role model. Full-time working man and part-time (or not) working woman, taking care of the kids and family issues during the rest of the day. This may differ to other countries, but here we are far away from gender equity (and I´m not even talking about single parents). Female executives are still rare. Wouldn´t it be amazing, if Corona times had started a rethinking? Without setting a woman´s quota for management jobs by law? Also giving the dads a chance to play an active role in the family business. Without forcing it and without downstroke in job responsibilities.
A variable office situation, however this may look, can be the key.
It has to start in our heads. We have to believe, that an equal split of working time is POSSIBLE. This can be a win-win situation not only for the families, but also for Companies. What can they aim more for than loyal employees, who are responsible and highly motivated to give their best? Performance not only rated in overtime, but in manageable working tasks.
In the end, it is important not only to remember how challenging this time of quarantine had been, but also how rewarding. Consciously spend time with your family is nothing, which you can catch up on. You can always start a new job, but you can never see your kids grow again.
“Lost time is never found again.”