Think of a scenario. Picture a setting from the family-oriented movies of the 1970s or 1980s, add internet, Wi-Fi, fear of viral attack outside home, and a lot of technological advancement to our lives. Voila! Welcome to the Lockdown life of 2020. Back in the days, who would believe that you could still be connected to your friends and family while you stay isolated at your home. Who would believe, that even to fight a war, you would be required to stay at home. Jokes apart, such is the reality of most of our lives today, the so-called “new normal.” Except for the thousands of health care professionals and essential workers who are at the front line of this war against the powerful and deadly invisible enemy called COVID-19 or Coronavirus. The historic global pandemic which has changed the face of this world forever.
Before starting I would like to convey my deepest respect and highest regards to the heroes in the front line who go out there to save lives putting themselves at risk. I would also like to pay my solemn condolences to the thousands of precious souls gone too soon in this war, and to their families for bearing this agonizing loss and pain.
For most of us, amidst tons of chaos and confusion, we are bound to find clarity and repurpose our lives – literally from the comforts of our homes. Sometimes, too much of a good thing can also feel boring and irritating if not streamed in the right perspective. Not to mention, we have added levels of stress and anxiety with all that is going around, and the siren of an ambulance passing every few minutes is such a constant and grim reminder of the perils of this war.
While on normal or rather prior-COVID-19 days, one would think home is the place to unwind, sit back and relax, do the chores and keep all the stress of the world at bay. But the new reality is, all of a sudden, home has transformed into our new workplace, children’s school, playground, day-care, elder care facility, restaurant, gym, doctor’s office, club, lounge, movie theatre, you name it. Not to mention, if you are a parent in these difficult days, you have to keep changing hats and keep juggling roles like never before, and it can be pretty darn challenging when you have demanding children, confused spouse, and small space to arrange all the peaceful coexistence of the family members.
These are difficult times to navigate for all of us irrespective of creed, color, race or religion. But as humans, we are hard-wired to adapt to the changing environment and force ourselves to see the light at the end of the tunnel. With a healthy dose of positivity, we are wired to creatively problem solve and make the best out of whatever is available at our disposal.
So now, let us take a fresh look at how we need to rediscover our homes to have a more functional and productive lockdown life while all the family members can have peaceful coexistence under the same roof for an uncertain period.
The Working Mom – Families With Children
Since I work from home while my husband travels to work every day, as he is one of the essential business workers, this scenario is most familiar with me. It largely helps to get into a routine, start the day early, and stay organized at all fronts – office work, kitchen, grocery, pantry management, cooking, cleaning, workspace management, homeschooling the kids, laundry, news, and entertainment streaming, socializing on the phone and internet. You can also try multi-tasking to increase productivity or capitalize the non-productive hours combining them with more rewarding activities. For example, you can put on a wireless headphone and take care of your socializing calls when cooking, cleaning or doing the dishes. Or listen to some self-development tutorials or motivational talks when doing mundane or routine household chores. Or you could simply use this time to concurrently stay updated on news or stream your favorite shows or listen to some guilt-free, stress-free music or faith-based audios.
It is very easy to get distracted with all the 360 degrees bombardment of information from all around your social circle, TV and social media, you need to stay focused and keep track of your time and be present not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally for your children. Homeschooling may be a new and confusing thing for them, but make sure it is also fun and exciting learning experience for them by engaging with them fully. I try to engage my elder child to take care of the younger child as much as possible. This helps them to foster a strong sibling bonding relationship and develop a mutually responsible connection. This is also the time for family members to re-connect and bond with each other at many levels. The family can use this time to reconnect and renew the spiritual bond with God Almighty.
Since my spouse has to go out for work and may well be exposed to the virus, we no longer share the room with him and try to keep a safe distance in all our interactions at home to minimize exposure to our minor children.
You can bulk up on all the chores during the weekend, or days that you are off so that you are all set to start the working week. Or, you can do chunks of work in between chores and homeschooling every day, at your convenient time throughout the week. Whichever works for you. When you are working from home, there is no 9 to 5 timeline. You have the liberty to spread your work all waking hours on your flexible clock and schedule. But make sure to keep your sleep schedule right, or catch up on lost sleep so that you feel sharp and mindful.
Depending on the nature of your work, mostly, you would have to identify your own time and space and deliver the tasks assigned to you. It understandably gets challenging if you and your children have to share a device, you have to plan your working hours after Google Classroom hours or arrange a device for your child. Department of Education had been lending children devices for homeschooling for children in need of one.
It is very important to be connected to your team members. Coordinate with your team members about what time and level of work works best for you and try to deliver accordingly. Dressing up for motivation and video calling with team members will still give you a professional feel even if you are working from home.
Both Parents Working From Home
If both parents are working from home, they would have to divide the chores and take turns on homeschooling the children amongst themselves to suit their working hours. Parents could take turns to engage the children in some quality time pass activities such as reading, baking, making crafts, playing chess or other board games, or just watching a movie together. Both parents can divide their office work, home chores and time offs for individual “me-time” or family time evenly.
Sharing workspace may be a challenge with small homes or apartments. Hot-desking could be an option where there is not enough space to have a dedicated workspace. Internet speed can get stressed in households with multiple users and multiple devices. Streaming entertainment may be stopped when doing important work assignments or conference calls to maximize internet bandwidth.
This is probably the best time for such lucky lots. Both can work and have peaceful leisurely hours from home. They could plan the working hours and chores amongst themselves. This could also be the best time to develop a deeper understanding of each other and take the relationship to new heights. There are now applications to host virtual house parties with friends online. Couples could also start a hobby together such as cooking for some real-time bonding and helping each other out.
Blissful Bachelors and/or Spinsters
Provided you have the internet connectivity and required devices, you could be the ruler of your kingdom now more than ever. Be sure to stay connected to your work team and family members too. Don’t get too carried away binge-watching TV and streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime. You could use this time to acquire new skills online through various paid and free online tutorials available now. Stay fit by following online exercise or yoga routines.
Students who have had to suddenly leave their on-campus dormitories at the beginning of this crisis have had to face some harsh realities about finding a decent place to move in on their own or with a friend or relative. Internet connectivity has been key in addition to ensuring other rudimentary facilities. Students have to be particularly organized as they would have to attend classes, lectures, do group studies, turn-in projects, presentations, and assignments all online. It is strongly recommended to order all groceries online and stay extremely organized and connected since the virtual classroom environment is vastly different than its physical counterpart. Keeping family and friends posted daily is necessary to keep them informed about your health and wellbeing. You could share contact numbers of your present location emergency contacts with your family members for any emergencies.
Seniors At Home
If you have senior citizens at home, you must keep them as isolated as possible and maintain the recommended physical distance to keep everyone safe. Make sure they are well-stocked on their necessary prescription medicines. Keep your workspace and conversations away from them. Limit grocery trips as much as possible and apply the highest level of caution when doing so. This is a particularly challenging time for our seniors since they are still by far the most vulnerable groups amongst us and it is our individual and collective responsibility to take care of them.
If you are an empty nester and working from home, please also try to limit your trips outside. Engage in online grocery and telemedicine when needed. Check on your children and keep in touch with neighbors so that you can keep on checking on each other from time to time.
Last But Not Least
By the way, please keep a thermometer, oxy-meter and some basic medicines such as Tylenol handy, not just grocery and toilet paper! Masks and gloves outside the home is a must to fight the viral war against this vicious invisible enemy.
COVID-19 has quite harshly taught us to be physically distanced but be virtually connected. While we seem to be physically isolated from each other but have never been as well-connected virtually in the history of mankind. While we embrace this new reality, we can assume that in retrospect, there will be no going back to normal, but moving forward with this new reality of our lives.
Let us welcome this new-normal and reset our lives and try to stay happy, healthy, and productive. The pandemic has taught us to keep our priorities right. Health and family are the most important priorities in the hierarchy. Let us not forget this and move ahead with this new discovery.
Writer: Rizwana R. Bashir
Sr Manager, Sales & HR