On day 10 of social distancing, the husband and I have realised that what works the best for us is working from the two opposite corners of the house, so that we don’t distract each other with constant updates on coronavirus. Work from home is a way of life for me, but for the husband, and millions of other men who have spent years, often decades, sticking to an office routine, this is a weird situation to be in. They don’t have to get up early, get dressed, wolf down breakfast and then rush to work. There are no hectic bike rides, no trains or buses to catch. They don’t have to worry about being stuck in the traffic on their way back. But this isn’t a lifestyle they are used to. Of having to work out of bedrooms, or dining rooms. With kids watching cartoons on television, household buzzing with activities like cleaning, cooking and the alarm of washing machine. So how are they coping with this sudden change in work culture?
Even the generation that adheres by old-school work ethics, has now warmed up to the idea and there is no notion regarding productivity or work ethics as such. On top of that, it has saved me a lot of transit time, which is a big boon. – Suresh
Parminder Singh, Chief Commercial Officer, Mediacorp, wrote in a post on LinkdIn that he finds his 8.5 hours long Monday marathons of non-stop meetings manageable in the office, in the company of others, but the task is definitely more demanding when working from home in isolation.
“The following hacks work for me:
- Drink copious amount of water. Way more than what’s required just to quench your thirst.
- If possible shift your work desk to a place where you get direct exposure to sunlight or visibility to the sky. That provides your retina much needed relief by shifting their focal length.
- The legs need blood circulation. Have a stool in front of you so you can keep your legs raised intermittently. You’re working from home, it won’t be disrespectful!
- Lastly and most importantly, it’s useful to remind ourselves every now and then, that even in this situation we’re way more privileged than many others. There are millions out there who would trade places with us in a heartbeat!”
Suresh, who works for an MNC is using this opportunity to spend more time playing with his child, with whom he usually only gets to spend the weekends. Yesterday, he gave her a few basics lessons in playing cricket, and he was able to do that within five minutes of getting off from work. He says, ” Due to support of the management, work from home is not a big issue at my workplace. Even the generation that adheres by old-school work ethics, has now warmed up to the idea and there is no notion regarding productivity or work ethics as such. On top of that, it has saved me a lot of transit time, which is a big boon.”
On the other hand, working from home also means putting in more work for some men, who don’t want to come across as slacking off from work. Says Prateek (name changed on request), “Working from home has meant I’m doing more than what I would normally do because I’m worried about appearing like I’m slacking off because I’m working from home. Also, the boss is constantly breathing down our neck because he thinks we’re slacking off.”
Men are also getting to experience first-hand, the ordeal their partners go through to keep the household running. 36-year-old Naresh Bhatia says, “Now that I’m working from home, I have a renewed respect for how my wife manages to work, with the two kids driving her bonkers all day. Three days and I’m ready to throw in the towel.”
A report by The Weather Channel has warned that coronavirus is likely to survive the summer in India, and reemerge after mercury levels fall. This means that we may be set up for more such rounds of social distancing and work from home. In that case, the question now for men isn’t whether they can adapt to this new work culture at all, but whether this could be integrated in the system on a permanent basis, once we are done and dusted with the current crisis, which could help us all be more at home, closer to our near ones, and spend our time on better things than commute and being stuck in traffic. That meeting could really be just a conference call or an email you know.
For Rohan Vyavaharkar, who works in the private equity business has worked from home quite often, including as a consultant. There’s been no difficulty in mentally shifting gears for him. Says he, “My wife has also operated in that mode for over a year, so she has a lot of tips for me too. What has been challenging is taking care of my seven and 3-year-old daughters who’re stuck at home, unable to completely understand why they can’t go over to their friends and why their mother or I can’t seem to find the time to spend with them. Their frustration can be a bit, pardon the pun, contagious. But I think the key here is to remember that we’re in very unique times and just lucky to have a workplace that makes it easy to be able to work from home surrounded with people we love. It will take some getting used to, but there’s a lot of people out there who have it much worse and it’s important to have that perspective.”
The views expressed are the author’s own.