Working in the closet

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Imagine this. You’re at a job interview. Your prospective manager is offering you your dream job that suits you perfectly and is an ideal match for your passions, skills and long-term goals. It even gives you an opportunity to contribute to wider society. You begin to wonder if there’s a catch. And it’s then that they lean towards you and say the following…

“By the way, our work conditions are a little different from normal. Our offices are full, so we don’t have a desk for you. We’re hoping you won’t mind using your smartphone and tablet instead – if you need to, you’ll be able to borrow a computer from others in your team. Alternatively, you can set yourself up in a corner of the room to do some work, or perhaps you can use the reception area or the basement. We’re sure you’re resourceful enough to find somewhere. Oh, you’ll also need to babysit the boss’s son. You’ll need to ensure he stays safe, is entertained and does his homework.” 

It sounds like a nightmare but unfortunately, it’s a scenario that many of us are facing in reality. 

Although we know what the desired, optimal, acceptable and unacceptable conditions of work are for us, during the Covid-19 lockdown many parents are forced to work in such conditions. And most of them are wondering if they are living through a nightmare! But at least with a nightmare, you can wake up – with current conditions, there is no way out at present. Moreover, you still remember the conditions of work you had a few weeks ago – the ones you managed to achieve or created yourselves. And you know there’s no way to have it back right now. Your resistance or anger is natural and appropriate. But you need to live this nightmare scenario anyway. 

So, what can you change? Together with the child psychologist PhDr. Jarmila Tomková, we looked at what ESET employees with children are doing to cope with this exhausting situation. 

Workplace with constant interruptions

Eric (two children): “Being home means I’m more involved in household chores and in taking care of our child. This means that work is regularly interrupted by other activities, making it harder to focus. I’m irritated and nervous – especially when deadlines are buzzing.”

What helps: Be a good team

“It helps a lot that my wife can take care of the kids and we have introduced a compromise system.”

What helps: Divide work time into ‘zero interruptions’ and ‘some interruptions acceptable’ 

“It proved useful to divide my work assignments into those requiring full focus and those where I just reply to emails or Skype with my colleagues. At that time, interruptions are not such a big issue. The family have agreed that when I need to fully focus on my job, my wife will do something with the kids to keep them busy. When I do things where interruptions don’t matter, the kids are in my room and my wife works. This way we can take turns working.”

My daughter’s schoolwork versus my work

Liza (one daughter): “We only have one laptop, which means that if I’m working she can’t attend her classes or vice versa. I think teachers have done an amazing job during this difficult time but not having additional IT resources at home is a real challenge.”

What helps: Unless a household has the necessary devices to allow all its members to work online simultaneously (for kids, the school is their work) it is neither possible to focus nor to have a professional background for video calls. Be assertive and demand that your employer provides you with the right technical equipment. Try obtaining digital devices from the state, local authority, your family, schools, the local community or your friends. During the days of Covid-19, people are showing solidarity and many of them have an unused older computer at home.

It looks horrible, I look horrible!

Too many people under one roof at one time? Some of us are forced to work in a storage room, in the closet, in the cellar, in the garage, the bathroom or even in the toilet. Let's run a challenge for most awkward room to work in! It might be hilarious when taking funny pictures for our friends, but not when there is an important video conference just about to start. 

Monica (two children): “I can only work in the room which we use for storage. Yes, you can find millions of things there – everything that has no other place to go. But what you won’t find is a desk. So, I use a big carboard box. It’s impossible to find any angle which looks OK for my video calls. There’s always some mess in the background. Moreover, I only can sit under the roof window which casts the light from the top and I look really terrible on the web camera. Everybody has such a nice background and looks good in video calls except for me – which drives me crazy. Every day it makes me nervous and distracts me before and during my video calls. 
What did I do to cope? I made the working place as nice as possible. I've put some flowers there and nice pictures, but I still struggle with a good angle, the background and with the light from the roof window. After two weeks, I got used to it a little and I suppose one day I will kind of accept it.”

What helps: Tidy up, reorganise and rearrange things
No one’s really bothered about your clothes drying on the radiator or the house moving boxes you still haven’t unpacked, so don’t worry about this kind of thing in your videoconference room. If it bothers you there’s nothing else to do but be creative and try to turn a terrible space into something usable. Use a shower curtain or a white sheet to create a single colour background. Similarly, use an old bedsheet to cover any clutter in a storage room. Decorate and brighten up the space with some accessories. This might also be the right time to redecorate your apartment and clear out the storage room.

What helps: Try unconventional solutions
Try something you wouldn’t have considered before such as working on the balcony, the patio or in the garden. Try building a gazebo, a big top or just use a sunshade and a table outside. It’s much easier to keep the children busy on a trampoline in your backyard than on the living room sofa. 

This situation isn’t one you chose yourself
Remind yourself that this does not represent your taste, values, wealth or preferences. It is not a reflection of who you are. Instead, it is temporary and exceptional. Conditions aren’t ideal or optimal. It caught us unprepared and everybody is struggling to do what they can. Be kind to others but also to yourself and don’t let this situation damage your self-esteem.

We know these are difficult times and it might be the first time many people have considered digital security. You might feel under pressure to buy something quickly without doing enough research to find out what’s good for you. We’d like to help and have therefore extended the 30-day free trial of ESET Internet Security to 90 days

Home office, home-schooling, home entertaining... Check out the tips from ESET security experts: 

PhDr. Jarmila Tomková / Child Psychologist
Jarmila is a well-respected psychologist in Slovakia. She has worked at the Research Institute for Child Psychology and Pathopsychology, where she led research teams examining the opportunities and risks of child internet usage. She coordinated the Slovak team of EU Kids Online, a multinational research network. She also founded and leads the civic association ViaSua, dedicated to supporting the mental health and personal growth of individuals, families and society in general. 

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