Do we want to go back to normal? On the face of it, the answer is a resounding yes. We want nights out with our family, friends and partners. We want to travel. We want to go to the cinema. We want to watch the sunset as we sink our last pint in a beer garden. We want to give and receive hugs.
But do we really want the life we had before lockdown? What about hurrying out the door, only to realise that a child has forgotten their PE kit? Or running to catch a train only to see it pulling out of the station? Or not eating dinner until 9pm at night before promptly falling asleep on the couch in front of that TV show you promised your partner you’d watch?
Was that normal? Was that good for us?
One thing that lockdown has taught me – and so many others that I have spoken to – is that we need to readjust our definition of normal. We need to seek out better balance in our lives. And working remotely might just have taught us how.
In particular, extended remote working has proven beneficial for working parents. I understand that home schooling has driven many mad, but hear me out …
In the last year, I have had more time to be a mum. I haven’t been rushing to leave the office early to pick my daughter up from nursery and I feel like we’ve gained some time in the mornings and evenings together. I’ve obviously had to get pretty creative in order to keep a toddler occupied during lockdown but I do feel like that working from home flexibility has given me precious time back.
It also means that I have the potential to consider going back to work five days a week. Because we’ve learned that not all of those days are going to be office-based. They don’t need to be. We can do our jobs at home. This is a huge boost – not just for the business but for working parents who can now think about topping up their incomes without losing out on family time.
Being at home has also – I would argue – made me more productive because there are much less in the way of distractions.
However, I get that it’s not all been easy. Being in the office gives us that clear divide between work and home life – meaning you’re less tempted to “just answer” that email at 10pm. It gives us a sense of purpose; to get dressed up and head on out into the world. We get to be face to face with our clients and candidates … Can a video call ever really replace that? What about socialising with our colleagues, even if it’s just a quick chat whilst we make a cuppa?
All of those aspects of the job are really important, too. So whilst I’m not advocating that we never set foot in an office ever again, I am saying that it’s really important we get the balance right. (Let’s be honest, the first time any of us has to put a tie or heels on and attempt a commute is going to be a total body shock!)
I’m not saying the desire to be entirely office based has left us completely. In fact, it will probably be quite exciting for the first wee while to be back at your desk, surrounded by your (socially distanced) colleagues. There will be a bit of a buzz about the place again, which can be motivational.
But when we think about going back to “normal” or the “new normal”, I would strongly urge everyone to consider what is best for themselves, their family, their career and their wellbeing.
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