We asked a few of our team what it has been like becoming a new father during the COVID pandemic and how has it changed approaches to work.
Peter and Alex are two young fathers from the Patton Group of Companies. Peter is a Business Analyst in Accuteque’s Operational Excellence division and Alex is a Customer Success Manager at The AVR Lab. Both have joined parenthood during the COVID pandemic and embraced the life changes it has subsequently brought. COVID has brought forth many changes both professionally and personally and Peter and Alex have used the challenges and opportunities to their advantage while still being open to leaning about what’s best for them in parenthood.
Has the COIVD-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns changed your work life balance?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive influence upon my work life balance. It has meant that I am able to have small amounts of time through the day to perform tasks around the home such as cooking and laundry, and therefore I have more time when I am not working for meaningful interactions with my wife and son. Similarly, I’m probably saving two to three hours a day by not commuting.
At a macro level, it has also meant that many workplaces I’m more capable of meeting virtually, recognizing that their staff can work and collaborate without physically being in the office, as well as placing greater emphasis on physical and mental well-being.
I have also experienced the negative side of COVID, such as the feeling of always being on call, not having a physical delineation between home and work, and missing some of that incidental contact and catch up with my colleagues. I also find I have to make a concerted effort move regularly where I used to get up from my desk regularly to attend meetings or chat to colleagues.
The beginning of lockdowns brought many challenges with it. At the time, I owned a Registered Training Organization that delivered Personal Training qualifications. Our value proposition to students was face to face training, in the gym, with highly qualified instructors. Gyms closing for two years obviously put a spanner in the works and a power of work had to be done behind the scenes to limit the damage to the business and our students.
I was simultaneously working in a Food Manufacturing business which was supplying Coles. Our production did not stop throughout lockdowns.
It would be fair to say that if I was conscious, I was working at that point in time. I am happy to report that I have since settled on much more conventional working hours post COVID madness.
What are the main pros and cons of working from home versus working in the office?
I feel the main positive to come out of working from home is the increased time with family. There are also incidental benefits such as not having to hear colleagues at adjoining desks, no waiting for microwaves in the break room, and I eat a lot more leftovers meaning I waste less food and save a bit of money.
As with working as part of any geographically dispersed team, it can be hard to build team camaraderie or understand the zeitgeist of a company or department while working from home. I increasingly rely on small interactions over IM or call to ensure I’m getting that context and tone which you might not get purely through email.
As an introvert, I actually enjoy working autonomously and discreetly. And having a son has really encouraged me to leave work at the study door and try to be present for him and my wife.
Regardless of whether I am working from home or the office, I wake up when my daughter wakes up to spend the first 30-45 minutes with her before I get ready/start work.
Working from home is preferred. I avoid two hours on public transport every day which I can spend working or with my family. I like the fact that I wont miss any major milestones in Zoe’s life while working from home.
Working from the office is great in the sense that you can have direct conversation with your colleagues which aids in collaboration. Considering we work for a company that specializes in remote collaboration and remote worker assistance, we shouldn’t place too much emphasis on in person interaction though.
What motivates your to continue working? Has becoming a parent changed your working style?
The shuffle of the early COVID restrictions and lockdowns, and being stood down as a result of working in a heavily affected industry, gave me pause to reflect on both my work and life goals and objectives. I very much “work to live” rather than “living to work” as a result. I still derive a lot of my self worth from my chosen profession, but I no longer define my success by my title or employer or how many hours I worked last week.
Becoming a father has changed my ability to say no to things, as well as teaching me the skill to pick up and do work more after his bedtime, or in quick snatches over the weekend if I’m in a period where I have too large of a backlog. I find I am more outcomes-based and quality-focused rather than simply staying until the job is done or putting in the hours.
When Zoe was born, it reduced my appetite for work for the first couple of months. The fact that no amount of success in business or in my work could be as meaningful as being a good dad was quite a change in mindset. I came back to the realization that part of being a good dad is to provide for my family and my appetite came back pretty quickly.
I wouldn’t say my working style has changed, I just try to be more present when I am not working and try to leave my phone and laptop turned off when I am trying to switch off from work. A work in progress.
I really value how certain organisations such as Accuteque have engaged with hybrid and flexible ways of working. It helps me to feel valued as an employee, rather than a cog in The Machine.
I hope that in future I can trial new and different approaches to working to see what works for me and my employer, such as compressed hours, reduced hours such as is being trialed in Belgium, emphasizing well-being as a KPI, or being part of teams no longer bound to a city or region and instead being comprised of skilled individuals from a variety of skill backgrounds, cultures and time zones.
One of the main things I remember from my interview with Caroline and Danny was that they asked me about my work life balance. They could obviously tell that I was a pretty intense person and they wanted to ensure that I don’t burn out. As a result, I know they don’t expect me to work 60 hours a week, which eases the pressure (mostly that I put on myself) to do so.
I am probably in the best space I have been since University in terms of work life balance. I even get the chance to squeeze in some PS5 when Zoe goes to bed. No complaints here.