As an educator my focus during this pandemic has been on ensuring that all our learners have a quality experience and achieve their potential. This is true for workers across the education sector from Primary through to University, across private and public sector providers. It has been tough but using the technology available to us we have maintained quality standards and continued to meet the needs and expectations of our apprentices and learners.
As a parent I have wrestled with other side of this coin, ensuring my child is online and engaged in their learning, that they are making the most of this very different educational experience and trying to be available to support with learning, not just in the evenings and weekends as in normal but during the school day as well. It is so important that our children are following the appropriate curriculum as provided by their schools but it is also vital that parents are in a position to support our kids to follow the schools instructions and that is the challenge. The very harsh realities of managing the isolation of a child who can’t see their friends, work commitments and schooling in homes simply not designed for the purpose is something millions of people are grappling with everyday and we are all doing the best we can.
None of this is easy but as an employee I continually find myself amazed by how the little things my employer does makes being a working parent in the pandemic easier. I don’t expect my employer to educate my child or make sure we get exercise and eat well, but it would be mistake to underestimate how the ongoing support they provide makes doing these things possible for me. There are no fireworks or gimmicky programmes just the thoughtful little things that make life that bit easier.
risual has always prided itself on being a family friendly company, but then we hear that from a lot of organisations, in reality it is the practical support provided by the company not soundbites that really matter. When it comes to support one size doesn’t fit all in our current circumstances, the parent of a toddler needs a different kind of support than the parent of a teenager (I know because I’ve been both).
From day one of the pandemic risual implemented a policy of explaining to our clients that we are working from home with children around, explaining not apologising. The security of knowing our children can be children in their homes and do not need to be silent in a corner is really important, knowing that we won’t be judged or subject to censure because they are visible on client calls means we don’t spend our days fearful of being seen as unprofessional if we don’t airbrush our families from our homes during working hours. The autonomy and flexibility we are given in planning our working day allows us to fit around the needs of dependants of all ages, over my career I have discovered that true flexibility that suits individual circumstances and not just the business is rare, so we remain professional and available to meet the needs of our clients but we don’t have the guilt of feeling we are failing our families. For me personally being able to take time out to eat lunch and dinner with my child and pick up some of my work at a time to suit me is vital, it allows me to maintain my work life balance without feeling under pressure, stressed out or that my livelihood is at risk.
Employee wellbeing has always been a top priority for risual but during the pandemic our wellbeing activities and challenges have been widened to include our families with activities designed specifically for the risual kids such as art challenges and viewing and exercise challenges designed to be fun for all the family. There is no doubt that our own and our families mental health and wellbeing are in the forefront of most of our minds in the current climate and sometimes we just need to have a little fun. While the cancellation of the annual risual family day was a huge disappointment it was an absolute pleasure to have so many children at the remote Christmas Party, tucking into their gourmet Christmas dinners and taking part in the Christmas quiz, awards evening, bingo bonanza and disco. Speaking of quizzes the fortnightly ‘risual Quizual’ nights were a great opportunity for families to take part in and in many cases run the evenings.
So while working in the pandemic has not been easy, I miss the office and I miss my colleagues, having an employer who understands that value of family and really thinks about the real practical ways to support employees has made my life a lot easier. In fact in some ways working from home has allowed us to grow closer to colleagues, through understanding their circumstances and their family dynamics and how we can work together and support each other to make life that bit better. Which just goes to show we can always learn something from every situation, as an educator that makes me very happy!