24 Jun 2020

 

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.” – Vladimir Lenin, Russian revolutionary.

It felt like the time had paused and the world had frozen. Covid had hit the world and lockdown had begun. That is when I started a new job. In HR. How timely!

Let me introduce myself: I am a first time mother with an active toddler and a busy homemaker with a full-on domestic life. I have worked in the HR function for long enough to understand that I am not at my best when I work alone. I am returning to work after a busy but enjoyable maternity sabbatical; look forward to reviving my social life with a new set of friends/colleagues in a buzzing office; only to figure the world had crumbled and caged in.

I was unsure of how the virtual way of working will unfold; but since I had worked from home in the past, i thought I would cope. But this reality was different. The crisis had hit every part of the world, streets empty and the fear of pandemic at an all-time high. Nobody had seen something like this, ever. It is the hardest year of our lifetimes and my life skills to adapt and embrace the change got tested every bit. I found myself falling into multiple loops of fail, learn and accept.

Big day arrives

The big day of joining arrives. I felt excited and anxious. Excited for the new journey, albeit alone. Anxious about the family routines, particularly time with my son. Delivering office laptop to home, thorough planning and execution of on boarding and Mahesh’s personal call to welcome me – made me swell with pride that I had joined a company that cared about its people. The zoom calls were personable but it got tiring after a few hours of staring at the screen. By the time we finished the day, I was finished too.

Life gets blurred and super busy

Life got busy, heated up (literally), and definitely over productive. The lines between home and work blurred; could not remember which day of the week it was – all days felt like a Monday.

The world outside was more chaotic and grim; reflecting the mood at home. It did not help that I lost my good friend to this pandemic in NY. Could not reach out, mourn or meet – just accept it in silence. At work, I was in office meetings all day, house was a mess, son was cranky and the husband trying to hold fort on the domestic front, balancing work; not realizing he showed up in home clothes for a client call. My son saw both his parents with a laptop all day so he wanted one too.

I had some side effects too. My wants and motivations changed. I used to enjoy solitude but not anymore. I now needed people and outdoor time to be happy. My ‘be perfect’ syndrome backfired and I had to make peace with a messy home. Prolonged solitude and talking to a computer all day in a locked room was a bitter pill to swallow.

Time heals (changes) everything, they say

Few weeks had passed by and we had all learnt to cope with working from home under lockdown; the hard way. I now had a predictable all-consuming workday with back-to-back meetings; son packed off to mother’s and husband managing to put edible food on the table. My son’s screen time grew to record breaking high.

By the time a couple of more weeks passed, I had gone through stages of ‘suffer – struggle – sense – settle’ mode, and so began to cope better. I no more worry about looking presentable for that video meeting; husband can cook for survival and son at ease with the mobile maneuvering. We still make time for small quibbles; before hurrying back to our next meeting. The universe is forcing us to find balance between work and home; and the struggle is, very real.

These days, am looking to find humor in crisis. Its funny that all I need answers for in life are – (1) when will this pandemic end? (2) Can you hear me? (3) Is my screen my visible?. However, not having to face the world famous Bangalore traffic, noise and air pollution and the dysfunctional infrastructure is a blessing in disguise. Its comforting to know that my son is only a room away; office colleagues a phone call away. Life is either work or family; free of mental clutter. I am now noticing the beautiful bright sun, clear blue sky and the pleasant sound of
rain; a sense of rejuvenation sets in even if its just for a moment. I am able to find time for music in the evening, family bonding; and for creating memories together.

The ‘new normal’ times ahead

Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) said the only way to sustain work from home at these times is to leverage your social capital at work. Although I do not have that advantage as a new joiner. However, 100% virtual work has surprisingly resulted in high productivity. A word of caution though – only remote work mode in the long term, can affect mental health; and our sense of balance and belonging. Social distancing may have spiral effects on emotional distancing too.

Imagine doing this fully remotely- Welcome a new team member, integrate new manager into the team, share difficult feedback, say goodbye to your friend, sort emotional issues; all best done in person. A combination of in person and remote may be the new normal; but only time will tell.

At a personal level, I am learning how to integrate work and life; not go crazy when network breaks or electricity goes off nor lose my calm when my child interrupts during a meeting. I have a renewed appreciation for all things basic – fresh air, music of birds and not traffic noise, healthy home food, quality family time, genuine friendships. In essence, a minimalist and sustainable approach to life.

I remind myself to smile and connect, before we get cracking at work. I am learning from my team every day and could not have survived without their support. I am grateful for this experience; feel more grounded and in harmony with the simple way of life. I hope and wish that you made this work for yourself too. Life is short so make it count. Good-bye and Good luck.

“Don’t wish it were easier. Wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn

-By Selvakani Selvaraj [HR Manager,Mercedes Benz R&D India]

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