Guest blog by Emma Keates, Harrogate: Mum to 2 daughters and Global Head of Communications at Unit4
So, the inevitable happened and it was announced UK schools will close on Friday 20th March. As a reserved Brit I have to say that even my usually tough exterior is waning. The implications for families, businesses and the economy cannot be estimated, and I feel anxious about what’s to come.
My children (primary school age) are excited at the prospect of no school. The school has been incredible. They are making arrangements to keep operating for children of people involved in the front line as relevant to virus care. They have set the kids up to study at home and our children are lucky to have iPads they can work from, with a full curriculum during the school days.
Now there lies the rub. I have an incredibly pressurized job – it won’t change the world, but I’m committed to continue as normal as much as possible. I can sit down at my computer in the office at 8am and keep going beyond 6pm without a break on a typical day. Home working somehow blurs the time parameter, so it’s easy to work even longer. The thought of keeping up with children in the house who should be doing school work at scheduled times is just more pressure. Important, yes, I want my kids to do well. My eldest is due to do her SATs this term. She starts secondary school in September, at a school we didn’t have a preference for, but the reality is that she might not see her existing school friends again in that setting. Everything unknown.
While we’re all focused on our own individual situations, I can only think about the medical support workers, the people at risk from this virus that are scared and isolated. It’s the strangest time in most people’s lives and I’m trying to educate the kids about that. I’m asking them to eat less and use less toilet paper, because there seems to be a run on that! Above all, given my job and my conversations with senior business leaders, I feel the impact on business, small and large, and on people’s livelihoods.
I know many people, including my husband who runs a small business, and honestly, it’s frightening but an unknown right now. What I do want to say is let’s be kind to one another, reach out to your teams in business and make sure they’re OK personally because this is unprecedented times and we all need to work together to get through it. True British spirit will go a long way here. Keep calm and carry on as much as possible.
I’ve been blown away by the measures my organization has put in place to ensure people feel as comfortable working from home as possible. And we’ve seen a movement happening where people are proactively organizing virtual exercise classes, coffee chats, after work beer socials and a lot of other initiatives. This is what we’re great at. People need people, even the introverts, and we always find a sense of self and community in the worst of times.
I have no idea how I will manage such a challenging job with two children at home that have a school curriculum. I will just do my best as you all will. Companies will understand, and I know mine does. I had a glimpse of what’s to come today when I was on an over-running video call, and my daughter arrived home early and decided to say hello to everyone on the call. Usually such a source of embarrassment, today light relief. And goodness knows we need it.
Keep communicating with people, and rest assured that we’re all discovering new ways of working from home as it becomes the new normal, for those that are lucky to be able to do that. I guess it takes away from the usual working mum conversation, so maybe that’s a good thing. As we find our new normal, perhaps we’ll find something that works well for everyone in the long run.