Pandemic has brought us several unprecedented challenges. One of them is the diminishing work life balance, for both working men and women; especially for women. The work life balance is a state of equilibrium that many working women find utterly difficult in the new normal. How challenging it is for a working woman to balance these two sides?
Guilty as charged!
As I pen down my thoughts, I am beginning to realise, how many times I have asked my employee to share a certain something with me on WhatsApp or even discussed the to-dos for the next day, as late as 10 pm. Having said that, the response from the other side has also been in affirmation. She said, she works better during late hours!
But the point here is, who said that it was OKAY to discuss work with our team, beyond 6-7 pm, knowing that they are, well, we all are at home! Of course, the Pandemic taught us this. And it was accepted so well that no one ever questioned this new style of working, at least not in the first wave and by the second wave, we had all grown so habitual of this new normal that no one really seemed to mind.
We heard of several incidents which went viral also, where the work from the home environment was made fun of. Someone is in-sufficiently clad for a video call whereas the others had their children barging in the rooms and disturbing the flow. There were other similar situations too and probably we know it in our heads.
While on one side there were people who learnt the rules of the virtual world the hard way, like look at the whole legal system – Who had imagined video conferencing to be normal in the Indian legal system. So much so that the courts feel they are much effective and fast track through video conferencing, therefore not wanting to go back to the physical system of hearing. I recently read about it somewhere today, that there is a 100-year-old legal eagle, who still joins in for all his virtual hearings and matters.
Kudos to the teachers who jumped right into the pool and learnt how to swim through. The same goes for our children, right from the kindergarten level, learning the meaning of mute-unmute and sharing screens.
This said, the new normal did creep into our personal lives. Even though before the pandemic also, some of our lives were sure a rat race. Workaholics used to carry their work home and had no barricades defining their personal/ family time. But this was not true for a larger chunk of the population. There was a thin line between personal and professional lives, yes, but there was. Now, that is non-existent.
Ever since I have been working from home, which is since March 2020, I am almost taken as, not working – by my folks. Again, I wish the same rules applied for a man and a woman. As the lady of the house, you are always looked at with puppy eyes, when it is time to eat, to sleep, if there is any sort of mismanagement at home, running any errands. Even if you have the support of house help, micromanaging will always be on you, unless the man offers help.
But then, he has his work calls.
Wait, but so do you.
Nay, you are a multi-tasker and may be you can handle well or maybe your call is not THAT urgent.
My personal experience with the new normal:
1. Because some calls were locked in for as early as 8:00 am India time, I couldn’t keep my camera on, for obvious reasons. It is considered rude at times but I did not have a choice
2. I’ve had discussions around possible changes in the contract terms at 10:30 pm on WhatsApp. I couldn’t say no because it was important to survive through the tough phase during the pandemic. You do not upset a prospective new client!
3. When your children tell you that you’ve been on the phone all day and that you do not have time for them – it does not feel good. Rather, it is a feeling of helplessness.
4. Overexposure to screens or holding the phone in my hand for longer periods, gave me numbness in my palm muscles and I could feel the EMR effects showing through lack of sleep, weird sleep patterns, anxiety for no reason, feeling giddy etc.
5. To avoid this, I got into wearable tech which has its own repercussions. A neckband with earphones, a blue tooth enabled headphone – believe me, there is no end to it. At the end of the day, we have becomes far more tech slaves than we were before the contagion. We are, un-arguably, at the receiving end of harmful effects of EMR as well.
The new normal has left us no space to breathe. Now Instagram is the new Google, your social media is your new credential and WhatsApp is the new SMS. People discuss work on any and every platform now. The work from home scenario has diminished the thin line so badly that it is considered rude if you are online on WhatsApp and you chose to not revert to a particular work message.
This is how mental peace took the brunt.
People felt they were lacking focus and concentration. The minds were everywhere, wandering and over-thinking and worrying. There was pressure to perform on all grounds – work, maintaining the family health, keeping everyone safe, God forbid if one falls prey to the virus, keeping the essentials handy, knowing enough people in the circle to get a hospital bed, trying to source oxygen cylinders and then concentrators, am I medically insured, buying life term policies, making sure you have invested adequately etc.
If this was not enough, knowing that there would be no appraisals, feeling stuck with work and tasks assigned, mental peace being interfered with (by the surrounding factors) – it has been a lot more than this, so many unsaid feelings. There have been days we’ve completely lacked the motivation to work.
All of this, made us go a little off track with prioritizing work. People ended up taking work to the bedrooms and sleeping with laptops by their sides.
Somewhere near Norway, there is a city where stats say that the fathers spend far more hours with the kids than the mothers. The European culture also shows how it was a healthy practice to not talk work after 5 pm. They consider it rude if you e-mail them after work hours.
Not sure when this will get over and if we will ever unlearn what we learnt during the lockdown, in this particular regard.
(Geetika Gulati is the founder and CEO of ZIVComms, a boutique PR firm.)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Autofintechs.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)
Featured image source: Youngisthan