Many many years ago, when I was a PA at senior level working in the corporate world, an odd afternoon or day spent doing work at home was a bit of a treat, it meant I could attend an appointment or get my head down with a specific project. Then when my children were pre-schoolers my husband did a one-off property development project and I did all the admin for him at home. Finally we decided to set up our own business and I had a desk at home, taught myself bookkeeping and managed the admin from home whilst still being able to be a full time mother to my two children. It worked, for a while! Then as the business expanded my husband needed an office more, somewhere to do estimating, make phone calls and manage his own paperwork.
Then it stopped working for us - gradually and almost catastrophically. Home is home, it isn't work and I needed work and home to be separate. I fully support that for mothers that need to work around childcare it is the perfect solution. I am so pleased I was able to work at home and support our fledgling business and still be there for my children after school and during the holidays.
But this post isn't about mothers who work from home. It is about husbands, partners, sons, daughters and our young people. It is about the impact on family life, relationships and mental health.
I am sharing my worries, my very real concerns, that have come from my own experience with a work from home situation on and off over a period of ten years or so.
I watched horrified as the news slowly developed back in February and March 'work from home if you can' 'you must work from home if you can' etc etc. Then seeing so many go 'on furlough' and seeing everyone loving the holiday atmosphere that created, a chance to do all the jobs that had long been avoided. All great - if it was temporary.
But now we are hearing about businesses closing offices, about employees preferring to work from home, about deserted town centres and the cafes, shops and sandwich takeaways that support them, at risk of going bust. All very damaging for our economy as well as personally for the people behind these businesses. And what about when the furlough scheme ends, will we see many more job losses and unemployed?
But what about the long term effects of this shift to work from home? The thought really worries me and one of the reasons for sharing my concerns is so that I personally can look back at this post and see what actually. happened. I am convinced working from home will not ultimately be good for us. I think the workforce needs to get back to interacting, bouncing ideas off each other in real time, to socialising both in the office and after work. I think we need those interactions for both our mental health and the success of our personal relationships. We need to meet other people outside of home. We need time on our daily commute to download our thoughts and switch from work mode to home mode.
I read a thread on a menopause support group I am a member of, someone had posted sharing their frustration of her husband working at home. There were mixed opinions in comments but it seemed to tip more towards it being a negative thing. I am sure there are some couples that can work together very well but I believe this are probably in the minority. Certainly amongst my friends it isn't considered positive. And menopause has meant now more than ever I need my own space and time alone sometimes.
My personal story ... so my husband had to in the early days set up his architects drawings on the kitchen table and got more than a bit frustrated when I asked him to put them away so I could serve dinner. Or the disgruntled looks when he needed to be on the phone but the washing machine was on. Eventually we built a log cabin in the garden to house the office which worked to a point but I always felt that my home life was open for all to see when visitors or staff needed to visit, what if I was having an afternoon off and wanted to sunbathe in my garden, what if I needed to have a rest on the sofa because I was unwell but visitors might walk past my window. There were some days where my kitchen seemed to have a constant flow of traffic coming and going. Eventually, it was agreed that my husband would rent an office in a serviced business. centre nearby. It is still not always perfect but it is a big improvement on those days!
But it does mean that I have seen first hand what affect working from home can have on family and relationships.
Then lockdown came and my son had to work from home. He is 22 and in the process of buying a flat but it was delayed further by Covid-19 restrictions. Fortunately he was able to take over the log cabin space to set up his computers and hold zoom meetings but it did mean I could no longer use my gym space without liaising with him about his routine. And being able to exercise is part of my essential mental health toolkit. During lockdown I found the lack of any real routine for any of the family really frustrating, there is a temptation to be much more flexible about working hours in a work at home environment and whilst this can be really positive for working parents managing childcare I really don't think it sets a good example for work ethic amongst the younger generation. I know my son works hard and gets his job done and being in the music industry means working life can be a little bit more laid back and flexible. But that still has an impact on the family. And when he leaves home and moves into his flat, I really will feel concerned if he is living alone / working alone for long periods.
I think these companies, particular the big corporates have a responsibility to provide somewhere for their employees to work. And yet I am concerned to read that many are planning to close offices permanently. I really hope they will consider options like hot desking, shared office space and proper alternatives for employees that can't or don't want to work at home. i also hope they will look very seriously at the mental health implications of these decisions. Not only on the employees but on the families who have to accept these arrangements when maybe they would prefer not to.
Of course, there are some jobs that are fully functioning from a home office. Many people, such as fiction editors and writers, work very happily from their laptop at home. If I was in such a profession, I would enjoy reading and editing from the comfort of my own home. However, those who work closely with people on a team benefit from being in a shared environment.
And I really hope if you read this because you are a regular follower or if you stumble across my blog whilst searching for work from home advice, you find my thoughts helpful. I remember when I was really struggling with the situation many years ago, and trying to find help, there seemed to be nothing written from the wives point of view. I am a stay at home mum, I have worked from home myself successfully and I run my blog from home so I fully support the concept, just not for husbands and our young people ....!
I appreciate my views might be controversial but I do welcome your thoughts and feedback so do leave a comment below or send me an email. I am genuinely concerned that this is not the right way forward. I appreciate these are very challenging, unprecedented times but I urge everyone to look at the bigger picture, the longer term view and think very carefully about what is best for everyone.
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Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about health, menopause, fitness, beauty and style with a focus on the over 50's.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my 50s. I started this blog in 2016 with the purpose of helping other women at this stage of life. I’m delighted that my blog has grown to over 13k visitors per month. Visit my Work with Me page and request my Media Kit for details of product reviews, blogging services and social media content creation.
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