Working from home: A time for repair
In 2017, a video of a professor interrupted by his daughter sauntering into his interview with the BBC with a toddler in tow and their mother dashing into the room kept us tickled for months and still does to date. His experience perhaps prepared mothers and fathers for this period where organizations have been forced to transition to remote working. And in a recent tweet, Ochieng Oginga, an advocate, wondered what his neighbours might think of him as he has had to continually shout ‘My Lord, can you see me and I can’t hear you, my Lord’ to the presiding judge during online court proceedings. We now have our own stories to tell.
Caroline Wakori, a mother of 7, and Manager, Shared Services, People and Culture, to help her family settle into the new normal, contemplated calling her children together for a meeting so that she could read them the riot act that included her team’s Business Continuity Plans and deliverables expected. Instead, she explained to her younger children that when she goes to a certain room within the house, she has gone to work. They got into the rhythm and when they see her enter that room, they ask, “Mummy umeenda job?” (Mummy, have you now gone to work?)
“When operating from an office, there is a clear distinction: I go to work but when I get home, my role changes. Now, I instantaneously switch between roles – from a professional to a wife and then to a mother. It can be confusing for all of us. There are times when I chase them away so that I can work on an approaching deadline but I end up feeling guilty that I haven’t been the best of mums. However, being at home means I get to see more of their cheeky and fun moments.”
Part of her work entails reaching out to staff members to check in on how they are working with their new working environments. “Being in this situation helps me to understand the staff members I am in touch with. I know the struggles of working from home and the increased pressure to deliver on all fronts. People at this point want to talk and need empathy. I’ve also had to find outlets to my own pressure.”
For Schola Kuligha, having her children learning from home ensures that they are all running on a similar schedule. “I am a parent of pre-teens and at this age they are fairly independent. We start the day together at 9 am – I go to work and they begin their classes. We have lunch together and go out for a 45 minute walk every day. I am discovering their different temperaments and appreciating that they are growing into teenagers with identities of their own.”
Schola has worked at Strathmore at 10 years and relishes having a distinct working space on campus that wires one’s mind to work. To accommodate their new circumstances, she rearranged the house so as to create space designated for working and learning. “Space can be a challenge as sometimes it is hard to look for a private space to conduct a meeting.” She also points out the positive outcomes of this period. “I’m now able to access the intranet from home which is key to accomplishing my tasks. It’s challenging us to look at the way we work and see, beyond this period, what opportunities can be gained from it.”
Benson Ogutu, Manager ICT Client Support Services, has seen a positive impact to the department’s efficiency and turnaround time. He is now working on creating FAQs pulled from frequent user requests in a bid to have staff and students self-sufficient by providing them with material that will aid them in troubleshooting problems they encounter. “I hope that this period will instil in the Strathmore community that we can support them seamlessly through online channels. We’ve had feedback that IT department is now prompt in giving the support needed which is largely due to people now trusting in the mechanism we have provided through the ticket system.” On the flip side, working from home has blurred official working hours. “I have provided support as early as 6 am and as late as 11 pm.”
Spending more time at home has helped his son Jonathan, who turned one at the beginning of May, recognize his voice more easily. “They’ve been times when I’ve had to whisper when on calls because once he hears my voice, he takes hold of his mother’s or nanny’s hand and walks to where I am to join in to the conversation. I’m looking at this as a time for repair and making every minute spent with my family count. I’m more involved now in looking after him which has given me an appreciation of the sacrifice and love that my wife puts into taking care of us.”
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: firstname.lastname@example.org