A new perspective on multitasking – Dads working from home


Written and compiled by WISE Young Professional Board Member, Alexandra Lawson.

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If we rewind back to March, a large proportion of us started a new journey of working from home and have seen a whole new perspective brought to the word “multitasking”.

Whether you have been battling with your other half for the bandwidth, muting your mic whilst the dog has a barney, regularly disappearing off-camera to answer the door, or homeschooling as well as holding down your job – it’s not been easy, has it? And’s that’s without mentioning the tough PE with Joe workouts at 9 am every morning.

Here at the WYPB, we asked a group of Dads who had newly transitioned to the WFH set up in the March lockdown, to look back and reflect on their experiences.

I think you’ll agree that the stories are heart-warming and remind us all to reflect on how lovely the additional family time among the madness has been over these last 6 months for those of us who have been lucky enough to have it.

Andy – BBC

Working from home with the kids running around? Firstly – it’s hard! It’s very difficult to do anything that requires extended periods of concentration when they are running around, so I tend to choose work that can be easily dropped and picked up in the middle of the day. I usually start before they get up and do some work before breakfast and then do pockets of work throughout the day – if need be, finishing after they go to bed. I’m very lucky in that a big chunk of my job has gone quiet so I am able to focus on training and other long-term projects that can be done at my own pace.

I think the first thing to go out the window is the notion of a 9 – 5 day! I have no idea if I do 8 hours or not but I get my work done and the rest of the time is spent helping my wife to keep them occupied. That often includes trying to get them to do their schoolwork. I’ve taken leave one day a week to take the pressure off the days when both my wife and I work. My top tips for keeping them interested in schoolwork are to switch topics regularly, move to different rooms in the house (even the shed or garden), and the old classic, bribery. I also find it’s best to do the tough stuff in the morning and focus on fun stuff and sports in the afternoon. My wife does a lot of baking with them for example which is great for me! One afternoon when she was working, I decided to teach them a bit about making television. We did a storyboard for a movie and we talked about the story. They did drawings of the characters they were going to play and I showed them the editing process. So, work and home got a bit mixed up that day as I got to brush up on my editing skills and they learnt a bit about the industry I work in. The result for your entertainment

So we’re coping OK. I think the pressure to get them through their school work drives us a bit crazy from time to time but they are only 5 and 7 so we try to keep in mind that they have plenty of time to catch up and they’re learning other (hopefully) useful stuff that they’d never get to do in school. It’s great to be able to spend loads of time with them and I’m certainly not missing the commute!

“It’s great to be able to spend loads of time with them”

Lee Southam – BMT

It’s been an interesting time in the Southam household. I’m certainly not in any position to offer parenting or home-schooling advice, so I’m going to share an insight into what life has been like for us during WFH.

As a family with two young children, Ethan six and Ava three, our initial reaction with both of us having to work from home was one of sheer terror, quickly followed by a logistical nightmare, how were we going to do it…

The first couple of weeks were by far the most challenging, thankfully with flexible working, we were able to balance it out. I was getting up with the kids and working from 6am -1pm. Then I would catch up on emails and bits in the evening, and my wife would then work in the afternoon.

However, this would not last long as we got the news that my wife was being furloughed, so now things are a bit simpler. The flexible working is still really helping to balance keeping the kids amused, progressing school work and finding time to mentally recharge, our days now look a little bit more normal.

The flexible working has really helped to balance life and work, I have the freedom to work when I need and join in with the family where I can. Thankfully, I like to catch up with my team, so I actively avoid Joe Wicks PE in the morning, but it does mean I can take time to enjoy an afternoon walk with the family (while maintaining social distancing), some school/learning stuff with the kids and just generally give my wife a chance to escape for a little bit. I’ve even tried yoga! I’m not sure my wife has stopped laughing at me yet, but the Cosmic Yoga series is great with the kids.

Here are a few other resources we have been using:

By far the most difficult aspect has been battling the guilt, we ask ourselves “are we doing enough learning with the children, am I helping enough, are they getting too much screen time” – I’m pretty sure a six-year-old should not spend this long-playing Minecraft! There is no magic answer here, speaking to my friends they are feeling exactly the same, but we all agree as long as we are trying that’s all that matters. Just remember it’s tough on everyone, the little people in our lives might not be able to communicate it well but they are missing their friends and routine as much as we are.

Overall, I feel that I’m benefiting from flexible working – I’m getting work done and enjoying spending time with my family. I’m interested to see once the lockdown is lifted if this will change our approach to work and highlight how remote working can help people achieve a healthy work-life balance.

“I’m interested to see… if this will change our approach to work and highlight how remote working can help people achieve a healthy work-life balance.”

Aidan Graham – Shell

I’m working from home while my two oldest children, Grace (7) and Oisín (5), are adjusting to doing their schoolwork at home. My wife Jane juggles taking them through the work the school is sending via email and looking after our youngest Fionn (18 months).

My working hours are similar to what I was doing when I was in the office. Our family is lucky that Jane has not been employed since we decided to start a family, so I’m fortunate that she can dedicate this time to the kids and the work they are getting from school. I know many other families where both parents are having to juggle work/school/family commitments which I can imagine would be very challenging. My first meeting is around 8 am and I usually finish around 4.30 pm. My commute to the office was quite short already but it is nice to be able to save some extra time during the day to spend with the family and I enjoy spending my lunch break with the kids in the garden when the sun is shining.

I’ve always been an advocate for flexible working patterns with working from home playing a key part so that individuals can better balance the priorities of work and family life. The COVID-19 crisis has tested the business’ ability to manage working from home as the new temporary norm and so far, it has proven to be resilient. Whenever we emerge from this, I’m hopeful that working from home will be more widely accepted as a frequent alternative to full-time office-based work. The crisis hasn’t changed my views on parenting, but it has reinforced my opinion that my wife, as a full-time parent, has had a tougher job than me for the past 7 years ?

The best thing about the WFH set up is being able to see the kids and spend some time with them during lunch/tea breaks. One of the downsides from working from home is that I find I have a little bit less structure in my day, the impact being that I haven’t been as disciplined about getting out for exercise at lunchtime as often as I would if I was in the office and Skype calls can’t completely replace time spent with the team in the office. My top tip for other parents at the moment would be if completing the schoolwork is proving challenging during the day and all else fails, bribe them with sweets.

While it is a worrying time in history and a lot of people have lost loved ones, I’ll probably look back and view this as a special time personally as I’ve been able to get the opportunity to have the kids around while I work. It isn’t all plain sailing but there are moments that I would otherwise have missed if I was in the office. Going forward I hope the experience leads to a new work-life balance in my career.

Like a lot of people, I expect, my haircut at home didn’t go so well so I had to revert to a very short buzzcut…my wife was concerned that I was struggling to cope with the lockdown!

Family and I on Grace’s 7th birthday, 3rd May 2020

“The crisis hasn’t changed my views on parenting, but it has reinforced my opinion that my wife, as a full time parent, has had a tougher job than me for the past 7 years”

Phil Mallin – BMT

It has been a challenging time in lockdown for myself and my wife (Jo) working a full-time job, whilst looking after a 5-year-old boy (James) and a 3-year-old girl (Emily). Our day consists of sharing the homeschooling and doing work, with the occasional meeting being photobombed by inquisitive children – “Daddy, who is that funny-looking person on the screen, dressed like Yoda”. We invariably get limited amounts of work done during the normal working day and so rely on the quiet evenings to catch up.

Jo is a primary school teacher and is working a rota (1 week in school, 2 weeks working from home), so when everyone is home, we are extremely lucky that she can guide the home learning. As I try to help out, I am given a newfound appreciation of the challenge teachers face. I will freely admit the week my wife and children are at school we are all worried about the dangers faced in the pandemic. Not least because the children of keyworkers will include those from NHS frontline families, and PPE is inadequate (absent) and social distancing is a very difficult concept for young ones. I manage to get a lot of work done during this period and still have plenty of time to keep the household shipshape and help with the COVID-19 decontamination procedure we have set up at home.

Weekends give me a chance to work on my master’s dissertation, which unfortunately is not waiting for the Pandemic to pass, but when it is over, it will be all the more satisfying.

We are just about managing with the work (I feel I am at least as productive, if not more) and really enjoying the quality time we get to spend as a family, that we did not realise we were missing. Life has changed and there are some aspects we would like to remain as is (having a home office and seeing the family more) and others we will be glad to see the back of (missing friends and family and missing social activities).

“As I try to help out, I am given a newfound appreciation of the challenge teachers face.”

Thomas Murray – Shell

I am working from home with my daughter Olivia (5), my son Nathan (2) plus my wife Tina (I’ll leave out her age ?). We still aim to go to bed at the same time as usual and make sure we get up and ready at the same time but we’ve no commute which is good and there’s less stress on getting the kids to nursery/school. Our laptops are switched on a lot earlier than before and that’s a good chance for us to filter our email.

Tina and I share the homeschooling so we prep the night before and try to keep to a routine. We mix schoolwork with something fun after, like PE with Joe wicks or an online Ballet class for Olivia. We log into School google Classroom at the same time each day to “start school”. Nathan gets a lot of free time and we aim to focus on at least one area for him to have a “task” which is either playdough, sand, or water tray if we can cope or some Lego.

Of course, there are times when both Tina and I have meetings and so we use the third parent in the house, the TV, or we facetime grandmas and ask them to read a story. We stop for break time and lunch as school/nursery would and that means Tina and I also stop! In the afternoon we continue with the play and work theme until 3 pm when schooling stops and the kids can choose what they want to do. We aim to go for a walk all together once a day.

I would say that I would work from home more often in the future but I miss human interaction. Parenting hasn’t changed much but moving to a role as a teacher has been challenging.

The best thing about working from home is seeing the development in your kids and the work they do at school. Nathans speech has come on leaps and bounds. You see the benefit of 121 support or even 2 to 1 support. Olivia’s computer literacy is amazing now and we’ve done a few things together as a family that have been really fun. Camping in the garden is the next big thing! It’s made me develop some new skills as I made a stop motion video and have borrowed a guitar to learn.

The toughest thing about work from home is seeing the children miss their family, friends, and their nursery/school. Facetime doesn’t compare to visit from family. We also miss our family and friends. At points, it can become overwhelming and the kids also need their space from us at times. And when Nathan needs a nappy change or one of them has an accident then we need to drop what we’re doing and focus on them. That balance is not easy and often stressful.

My top tip for other parents at the moment would be to look after yourself, especially your mental health. Be kind to your kids as this is the most bizarre situation to be in.

How do you see I see this current situation changing your future? What a big question. Assuming we return to the way it was before COVID19 then I would say I would work from home more. I’ll focus on being in the moment more. I don’t think we will be planning any overseas holidays for a wee while. I’ve not really thought enough about it and subconsciously assumed it would just go back to the way it was.

Over the last few months, we have made lots of nice memories. Playing in the tractor tyres at the rugby pitches, seeing ducklings at the Johnston gardens, which Nathan walked all the way there and back. Olivia cycled 2k. We’ve baked, planted pumpkin seeds and carrots, painted and face painted, made dens inside and outside, watched lots of Disney movies, sung songs, danced and those are just the things that spring to mind. This keeps the negative stuff at the back of my mind and the positive stuff at the front.

“Over the last few months, we have made lots of nice memories.”

I think we can all agree that this transition to work from home and maintaining a somewhat normal work-life balance has been challenging in different ways for all of us. As we move into the new year, it is clear that many of us have some new ways of working that we would like to remain, whilst we will also be so happy for social interaction with our colleagues face-to-face. Whilst we continue to navigate through this new era of working for all of us, continue to look after one another. Reach out to those you haven’t heard from in while, check in on those who may be on their own, and remember you’re not the only one reaching for the iPad or the cookie jar when it’s been a trying time.

We have a lot to be grateful for from these last few months, more time with our loved ones, new hobbies, DIY that has been on the list for a while, and the benefits of life all slowing down for a while. When we go back to the world of face-to-face working and whatever the new normal may look like, let’s not forget to sometimes take a step back and some time for ourselves when its needed. Continue to stay safe and well as we head into the new year, and please continue to share your wonderful work from home stories, as they really do bring a smile to many faces.

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