Whose job is more important?
The challenging debate about work and relationships with working from home.
Happy New Year to you, one and all.
This article has been in the pipeline for some time but with greater Covid restrictions now back it seemed even more necessary to share.
Covid / lockdown / home working / etc has hit many people very hard and in a variety of ways. It is tough to live on your own and have to work from home. It is tough to not live on your own and work from home. The specific aim of this article is to address one particular challenge which, the more sessions I do with clients on how to make things work right now, seems to come up over and over again. If you live with a partner who is also working from home (hugely exacerbated by having children, especially when schools are closed) couples are beginning to have the same debate, repeatedly - whose job is more important and who gets to do theirs first / most?
I cannot begin to tell you how many people have now talked to me about this. I can tell you though this exact debate has happened in my own home many many times!! I have my own business as does my wife. She is an immigration lawyer and Brexit has just happened in the UK - she is busy!! I am busy too. My business matters to me as much as hers matters to her. Your job matters to you as much your partner's matters to them.
So what are some of the challenges then?
Physical space - even just the amount of physical space available in the home can make things difficult. Who sits where? How does one person get the peace to be on calls or zoom, while another person works?
Technical capability - I have had folks share with me about the capacity their broadband has to be able to cope with 2 people in the same home being on zoom simultaneously!
Childcare - with children now at home, who looks after them, while the other person works, given both people have serious roles to fulfil and those roles need proper attention?
Money - I think this is a pernicious aspect of the debate. Who earns the most money and therefore whose job is deemed more important purely upon that basis?
Lack of Mental Separation - in most cases, where both partners have jobs, those jobs are not done in the same place. There is a separation which happens in people "going to work" which gives time apart, fresh surroundings, other people, etc. This becomes impossible. Now folks are literally stuck together!
You as the reader could probably add on numerous additional points to my list above, and I would love to hear them too.
Let me tell you what doesn't work in helping this situation - ignoring it, simmering tension, which at some point or another comes to the boil and unfortunate things are said and done!
Some Tips from my Perspective
Reframe the question - the quality of solutions to almost anything is often based on the quality of the questions being asked. "Whose job is more important?" forces a particular mindset - that of justification of one's own position. Effectively "digging in", somewhat akin to WW1 trench warfare. It leads to further polarised positions and perspectives. "How are we going to make this work?" on the other hand, when said with genuine intent leads to a more problem solving mindset. "What are the things we can do to manage this better?" "What do we need to change which will help us both get what we need?" "Who else could help us?" etc
Talk to your boss! - I completely appreciate there are different types of bosses in the world, I spend a good deal of my time training them. The thing is if you have these competing priorities and responsibilities you need to be open and honest with your boss, and your employer. Saying I cannot cope is strength not weakness. Be creative about what might help. Have some thoughts yourself about how things could be different and how you think they could work. In this way you are not simply dumping the problem and asking someone else to come up with ideas at their end.
Manage your own team creatively - we have not really been here before! These are new struggles, and so being linear in thinking might not be enough. Talk with the individuals in your team about how they are coping and ask what would help. Get creative about workloads, timescales, processes. How could we look at what needs to be done in a more creative way instead of just seeing it as the same things need to be done in the same ways with people working remotely? Also, if you as the manager are the one not coping ask your team to help.
Accept things need to be fluid - what works this week might not work next. There are differing priorities at different times and so whatever you come up with needs to have a level of fluidity and flexibility to it to allow those changes to be coped with.
Just keep talking - all of the above tips are based on one simple premise - communication. Keep talking. Keep looking at weeks ahead together and finding ways to be creative, identify blocks and then do what you can to manage those most effectively, either together, or with your employer.
If this resonates with you I and you feel you, your team, or your business could do with some help in this area contact .........