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Looking after number one amid crazy, exhausting whirl of working from home

Gina London


Find a neutral third party to whom you can emotionally unload (stock image)

Find a neutral third party to whom you can emotionally unload (stock image)

Find a neutral third party to whom you can emotionally unload (stock image)

They have three small children. In the first couple of months of Covid-induced remote working, to overcome the lack of childcare, she convinced her boss to let her cut back to four days so she could mind the kids on Mondays.

Her husband took aim at a different day and managed to take parental leave on Fridays. The remaining three days became a feverish dance.

Some days she took the early shift and fired up the laptop to tackle emails while he dressed and fed breakfast to the children.

Later, she'd handle lunch while he grabbed his first chance to log in.

Without the luxury of space for a designated home office, if the parent minding the kids had taken over the dining room table, the parent minding the work set up the computer over on the kitchen island.

When it came to Zoom business meetings, which required more privacy than the kitchen or the dining room, they took turns hauling their laptop to the bedroom, perching it on the dressing table.

What happened when they both had a Zoom meeting scheduled for the same time, you are now wondering, as you've become both enthralled and fatigued by reading the all-too-familiar story of this exhausting choreography. Whirling around waking, working, feeding, minding, working, feeding again and then back again to working. It reminds me of the Italian folk dance the tarantella, a frenzied twirl thought to drive out a spider's poison. But despite some gradual reopenings as we slowly emerge from lockdown, there is still no end in sight to much of the delirium of our working-from-home dance.

By now, we all know Covid-19 has triggered a new age of remote working. But how are we coping, really?

From a work standpoint, the World Economic Forum published a report on its Covid Action Forum which showed while the majority of employees and employers surveyed agree the number of hours of working from home has increased, there was mixed opinion on whether it equated to more productivity.

From a mental health standpoint, Dublin-based psychotherapist Elaine O'Leary, who has worked with a range of clients during lockdown, says she continues to hear from people who are straining under the difficulties with our long, wearying work-life disruption.

"The big thing for people is the blurring of lines," Elaine told me by phone, not Zoom. "In life, it's trying to strike a balance between work, family, friends and ourselves personally. Self-care is the really important component that seems to be most lacking."


"You're working in your home. Your work day is leaching into your family time. It's a struggle to incorporate a little bit of important 'me-time'. This used to be getting a take-out coffee before heading into the office or going to the gym, having lunch with some of your colleagues or meeting a friend and then being able to de-stress on the way home in the car."

I hadn't thought of commuting as a time to unwind, really. Maybe I should try sitting in my car in the driveway for an hour at 6pm with the radio on.

But seriously, although I've heard plenty of people saying how much they don't miss the commute, I can understand, as Elaine pointed out, it was also a time to physically and mentally leave the workplace.

Later, when you physically and mentally re-engaged with the family as you came in the door at night or picked up your kids from the creche on the way home, the commute served as a boundary that many of us no longer have.


When I asked Elaine what she advises her clients who come to her, she politely reminded me psychotherapists don't instruct. "We don't offer advice," she said. "We facilitate awareness to empower people to make new choices."

The whole point is to have someone who will actively listen to what you're going through. I get it. And because I do offer advice in my practice as an executive coach and in this column, here it is: Find someone who isn't your spouse, partner or colleague to become your thinking partner or your rant buddy. Preferably a neutral third party who doesn't directly have an impact on your career.

There is great value in acquiring a safe space to emotionally unload.


A couple of weeks ago here in this same column, productivity coach Niamh Brady reminded us to deliberately enter and exit our homes as a ritual for beginning and ending our remote-working business days.

Elaine points out that setting boundaries is not only beneficial for work productivity but also toward refuelling your personal productivity tank.

"Commit to personal time. If you only give your energy to little ones around you, you will get lost," Elaine says.

"The more care I give to myself, the more I can help others. It's like money in the bank - if you don't continue to lodge, you're going to run out of credit."

It's a dance we must learn the steps to for ourselves.

  • With corporate clients on five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon

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