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Thoughts on Lockdown Working-From-Home during Schooling-from-Home

These are strange times indeed.

At least, I thought, I’m used to working from home – I’m a business and transformation consultant and I do a lot of that from home.

And I’m not a big socialiser, so I thought that would be fine too.

But I hadn’t counted on the strange mental impact of being locked down, the additional workload of ensuring everyone eats three times a day, the emotional and mental load of helping with school work and the physical effects of being indoors. The first weeks were far from fine.

6 weeks later, here’s what I’ve learned works for me. I didn’t invent them, I pulled many of them from ideas shared by others - and an important realisation was that, although this is different, I do have experiences that are relevant, strengths to draw on and processes I can use.

Different things will work for different people, but maybe some of these will be useful to others:

  • Keep the routine – I’m a lover of structure, so are children, and it means we all have “break time” and lunchtime together

  • Plan the meals the night before – I don’t do “winging it” normally, so why did I think I could manage it now?

  • Get outdoors once a day – I enjoy what the plants in the garden are doing, breathe the air and remember that years ago, being home with a newborn gave me cabin fever, so this matters

  • Exercise daily – without this, I don’t sleep. My regular walk to the station to travel to meetings was taking 10,000 steps a day, now I do an online dance class, follow an online yoga video and run about the garden doing crazy things with the kids at “break time”

  • Work out how much work fits and just do that – more than 2 one hour calls a day causes family tension, working “after school” or for a bit on Saturday morning whilst everyone else watches TV is peaceful. I’m probably working at about 40-50% of my usual capacity.

  • Work out how much school fits and just do that – some days the school work is too much, too hard, too much stress but other days it’s fine

  • Plan adult contact – both at home and outside online, plan it, do it, I need it

  • Try to understand the psychology of what’s going on and use it– many behaviours just now are ways of playing out bigger emotions and I try not to just react.

  • Keep my nicely-structured work environment – monitor at the right height, proper chair, tidy it away for family time. I wondered why Zoom gave me back ache until I realised that for some reason I was balancing the laptop on my knee.

  • Not too much Zoom – it makes me tired

  • Get a decent night’s sleep – normally I can handle a bit of late-night-early-morning impact, but not just now, so I’m in bed early with a great book.

  • Write a journal – this helps me reflect, practice gratitude and realise that my anger about the primary school maths questions was really about lack of fresh air! I’m taking photos for a visual record too, perhaps this is as close as I’ll ever get to an artistic project.

Catherine Barber-Brown

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