Anupam Varma The pandemic has made me hate working from home March 10, 2021

Home and office have now become one, emerging as one of the most significant side-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this merger, office has consumed the lion’s share, and left the crumbs to home.

As a friend of mine rightly said, Saturdays are the new Wednesdays, and Sundays don’t look like Sundays anymore.

There’s no silver lining here, not even a sliver, as we continue working from home. It’s been a year since the pandemic struck. Normalcy, by the most optimistic estimates, is at least 18 months away. And if we go by a Bloomberg report, it is seven…years. “With vaccinations happening more rapidly in richer Western countries than the rest of the globe, it will take the world as a whole seven years at the current pace,” the report states.

I have never been against working from home. In fact, I encourage it. The employee is best placed to decide how to prioritise work and family. But this principle may have held true one year ago, not anymore.

My trips to the office have been erratic, sometimes because of my own doing, but mostly because of reasons beyond my control—a colleague testing positive, exposure to a neighbour who, in turn, was likely exposed to someone who had tested positive, a child or relative who came over, unknown of whom they had met previously.

I have had birthday parties cancelled, met family members through glass doors, and avoided meeting my children for minutes together until I took a shower after returning home. They would stare at me, bewildered. I would mumble an apology from a distance.

The pandemic has hit the children the hardest. Remote learning can’t match physical learning in school. The face to face interaction with teachers and fellow students is missing. Evening play times have been severely curtailed, and are carried out under strict supervision. They are losing stamina and gaining weight with every minute they spend in front of the screen. Study time is screen time. Lazy time is screen time. Play time is, on most days, also screen time. Tolerance to the afternoon sun has waned. The smallest of chores lead to perspiration. Every sneeze and cough are accompanied by bouts of fear. More than us, the children are suffering.

Their innocent questions, their curious brains that want to touch and smell everything, their instinct to run out in the open, in fresh air, have been put to a stop. Amid all this, the parents are cooped up in one corner of the house, juggling cooking and Zoom calls in the same breath.

Some have taken this in their stride—the erratic schedule, the non-weekends, the constant need to be available online. But for most, such as me, it has been an impossible task. There is barely any time to recover from the weekday burnouts. Little to no uninterrupted time to spend with the family.

More importantly, I am running out of answers on how to explain to my children why they cannot touch the elevator button with their fingers and then put the same finger into their mouth, why they can’t hug their little friends all the time, and why it’s important for them to be away from us when we return from a chore outside.

Working from home is not a problem. Getting your family members on board is.

The best solution, it seems, is a partial work from home approach. The employee stays home for two days, and goes to office for three, or the other way round. But this arrangement has its own problems.

You need to maintain two parallel set-ups, and a seamless connectivity between the two. You also need to juggle the schedule of your children’s online classes, their dance class, their music class, and any other online activity that they participate in. You also need your spouse to adjust their schedule accordingly. Not only that, you won’t have a fixed sleeping pattern. If you choose to work from home towards the weekend, your snooty colleagues may chide you for enjoying the long weekend.

Working from home has also meant quick ‘tech’ lessons for the digitally challenged colleagues. From “How do I accept an Microsoft Teams invite on Gmail?” and “How do I give someone else rights to share a screen?” to “Should I download the app or use a browser?” and “How do I get my computer to allow the calling app to use the microphone?”, questions have been aplenty.

Those nifty with gadgets have emerged overnight as tech gurus. Children have been, unsurprisingly, quick to pick up on the multiple software and platforms in use. I have heard children tell their teachers on a Zoom call steps to turn on the camera or share a screen.

The pandemic has pushed us into a corner, and forced us to adapt at a rapid pace. We have weathered the change so far.

Cover Image from iStock by Getty Images.

Avatar for Anupam Varma

He is a journalist who loves reading, number-crunching and driving for miles and miles in his free time. A big fan of psychedelic rock. Loves to eat and is open to experimenting with cuisines. Aspires to be like one of his short-story heroes: Anton Chekhov, O. Henry and Mark Twain.

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