Released On 1st Jun 2021
Ruban's blog: A Hybrid World: Looking forward to going back or looking back to go forward?
As the thought of being crushed to death in those tube-shaped sweatboxes loom large on the horizon for many of us as offices open their glass doors again, I started to reflect on what the latest version of ‘the new normal’ will look like and will it work in favour for people, in particular working parents.
My reflection started off with the rhetorical question that has plagued me since the dawn of time: “What do I want?”. Do I want to go to the office? Do I want to stay at home? Do I want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a sandwich made with sourdough (voted best dough in the world 2019), organic avocado, and chicken (probably fed on a nutritious diet of sourdough and organic avocado) or do I want to spend half of my ‘lunch hour’ making it myself using carefully sourced ingredients from Waitrose (or a.n.other local organic shop). Do people have a ‘lunch hour’ still? Or is it now 35 mins? 75mins? I haven’t had this much responsibility thrust upon me since I was given the ‘freedom’ of the remote control to choose between Mr Tumble or Paw Patrol by the little ‘uns.As humans, we always seem to want what we don’t have, but perhaps for some of us, the likely hybrid approach to work and life could be the sweet spot that many of us have been craving.
Our second son was born two months before the first lockdown in March 2020. The pandemic gave me that opportunity to play a much more active role in his life than our first. It also provided me the opportunity to hone my juggling skills as I tried to figure out how to also best support my wife, our eldest son and all whilst avoiding the sack by getting some work done too. Over the year, it has been both a pleasure and a struggle as I balanced the enjoyment of doing the shuttle runs to/from nursery at the bookends of the day with the feeling of isolation in an empty house sandwiched in between.
With one hand the pandemic gave, and with the other it taketh away…. it suddenly gave me the chance to project manage bath times with two very demanding young clients, each with their own requirements; yet it took away the ability to turn your head left or right and ask your colleagues how their day is going; then again it gave my son the platform to railroad meetings with his views on the delicate political wrangling inTransformers; but it took away my lunch break with friends and colleagues and replaced it with a perma-“table for one”situation; it gave me the opportunity to sporadically exercise with new BFF Joe Wicks, take self-curated cupboard raids unrestricted by vending machine malfunctions and even roll out of bed and work in my Star Wars pyjamas.
Overall, it gave me the opportunity to be a ‘better’ (very subjective) father by being able to be with my sons, learn more about who they are as individuals, understand where I can support them best during very unusual and difficult circumstances. An opportunity to be a supportive husband and provide emotional and practical support during a time which can otherwise be lonely for a new mother, more so with a second child.
Despite all of this, it also stripped me of self-confidence and replaced it with anxiety. With all these distractions, was I doing my best at work? With the distractions of work, was I doing my best at being a father? And while I was being distracted by all of that, was I doing my best at being a husband? Tackling all three in one go left me feeling that although I was in touch with all three, I was not doing a particularly good job of any one of them.
So, what is to be done? The ‘old world’ was good in the sense it gave us structure and clear delineation between work and ‘play’ but left some of us unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and unable to pursue our other ambitions outside of the office space.
Unfortunately, it has taken a pandemic to fast track some things that perhaps we could have been focusing on earlier. Mental health and wellbeing were not discovered in 2020. It’s always been there, but our heads have always been turned the other way by the various bright lights of life. The balance of working and life has been steadily tilting towards the latter, but at glacial pace. In a lot of cases, the two things have been kept mutually exclusive as if one does not impact the other. Hopefully the events of the past year will help us all move closer to an innate wellbeing, and to be able to start looking after ourselves better before we can start helping others, both professionally and personally.
We are all different, with varying beliefs, situations, personalities, needs, and so on. Whilst not all of us have the fortune of a flexible work arrangement in the future, those who do may finally be able to reach a new balance that helps them be the best that they can be, whether it be a person, parent, friend, or employee.
Ruban is a husband to one amazing wife, father to two wonderful young boys, and a willing slave to all three. When he is not dancing around with a child on his shoulders or ferrying them around on piggyback, he can be seen attempting to kick footballs, save worlds on his Playstation and occasionally audit some things for a lucky City insurance firm.