By CARA HUNT
Tribune Features Writer
Working from home, the “new normal” for many right now, may have sounded very appealing a few months ago. Women, mothers in particular, hoped that staying home would help them in taking care of their kids, who have been mostly off from school since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, studies have shown that the flexibility afforded by working from home may actually lead to putting more stress on women. Research has found that women are more likely to carry out more domestic responsibilities while working at home, whereas men are more likely to prioritise their work over household chores or taking care of children.
This week, we spoke with several Bahamian women who have had to adjust to working from home to find out their secrets on how to strike that sometimes elusive balance between home life and work life.
Lanae said in her case the early bird catches the worm.
“I am in finance and so a lot of my work has to be done early to catch the European markets et cetera, and so I honestly get up the same time as if I was headed into the office which was for 7am. I sit at my computer at 6am and do e-mails and start what I need to do; the things that have to be sent away. It honestly works better for me because by the time my kids wake up around ten o’clock I have gotten a lot done and that’s a great time to take a break and get them breakfast. I am usually done around 4pm and then I take a few minutes to start dinner and housework and then the evenings are free. But for me the key is that early wake-up. That allows me freedom at night,” she said.
She added that she needs a clear separation from “work” to “home”.
“Your office is now now home and so you need to find a definite cut-off point,” she said.
Keisha, a human resource manager, agreed.
“I had a hard time shutting off,” she admits, “I would be checking my work e-mails all day and night and I never shut off. It was like work was consuming me. Now I put in my hours and whatever doesn't get done will get done the next working day. But I have to have that time when I say I am done work for the day,” she said.
Gina, on the other hand, said “turning off” at a set time is difficult because she has two young kids.
“My kids are not at the age where I can let them just chill while I work, and so for me, I just work throughout the day,” the office manager said.
“I try to get an hour in before they wake up, and then when they take a nap I can get some done. I do a lot of work between 9pm and midnight when they are asleep just because, honestly, I get more done that way,” she said.
“My boss is really cool and is like, ‘I don't care how you structure your time away from the office as long as I get what I need’.
But I have taken many calls in my ‘bathroom office’ and my boss has heard my kids in the background calling for me, et cetera.
But you do what you have to. My husband is an essential worker so he is out working in the day and so he holds the fort down when he gets home. It's exhausting but we are just happy that we are employed.”
Crystal said a supportive partner is essential.
“My husband and I are both working at home,” the businesswoman explained. “We keep a schedule of our Zoom meetings, conferences, and try to coordinate who keeps an eye on the kids so that the other one can get stuff done and then swap. I don't know how we would have made it if we weren't both home.
She added: “Another random piece of advice is get dressed. I am not saying full suit, full make-up, but don't stay in your PJs all day. I just feel that if I get dressed I am more focussed.”
For Arnette, who works in sales, the challenge is avoiding distractions.
“When you’re in the office it's just work, but when you are at home you are thinking about the kids and they figure home time is their time and they want your attention, and then you are thinking about laundry and dishes and cleaning in addition to the work stuff all at once,” she said.
“It's a lot and it’s stressful. The only advice I can give is just focus on one thing at a time. You can't clean and work, so pick one, knock it out, and then move to the next thing.”