Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the remote job market was on the rise globally. Millennials and Gen Z in particular were seeking flexible work arrangements that would allow them to work from home, or in some cases, while travelling. This was a particularly exciting trend in Pakistan where, for years, commute issues were one of the biggest dividers between the career paths of men and women. Women had to commute to/from work in vans at fixed timings, rickshaws, buses (where there’s always a threat of harassment) or the more expensive cab services, while men would motorbike at their convenience. Work from home preferences across millennials neutralised these differences and put men and women on the same career track.
It is no surprise that Pakistan had quickly become arguably the third country in the world as a resource for freelancers. In 2018, ‘freelancer.com’ announced 1.15 million Pakistanis worked as freelancers. Today, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more and more companies encouraging their team members to work from home. Moreover, a government order for the lockdown to protect our citizens has contributed to this.
With this sudden new work order, everyone is scrambling to come up to speed with creating home offices for oneself as well as guiding one’s teams. Incase of women, usually their spouse is currently also working from home – one home office or is two even possible? With the schools closed, children are also home and it can get difficult for parents. They can’t get parental helpdue to social distancingand may not have any house help too.
Working at home during a crisis is very different from traditional work from home. The reality is a multi-tasking pressure cooker for women. They are for the most part cooking meals, disinfecting surfaces, meeting all their work needs, while being their kids’ teacher, all at the same time! It is expected that many more women than men will lose jobs during this time, especially as they strive to balance being full-time hands on mothers as well as meeting work deadlines.
Rachel Thomas, Co-Founder and CEO, LeanIn.org, coins this difficult time as a ‘double-double shift’ for women and LeanIn.org is advising women to ask employers to permit them to “do what they reasonably can.” Not every deadline is a hard one.
This week You! explores the issues being faced and suggests some ideas for managing your day and your new home work environment…and spotlight those of some fellow dynamic women CEOs, from different industries.
Tara Uzra Dawood
First, I will start by sharing my topWork-From-Home tips. I also recommend consulting the WHO website for the most up-to-date information and guidance as the health and safety situation keeps changing.
1. Keep a separate work space: This is an area where ideally someone cannot enter without knocking. The space has to be a calm, quiet and highly productive zone. I am lucky to have two beautiful home offices, one more formal downstairs office where under normal circumstances, visitors can come for meetings; and a private, informal upstairs one which is where I am primarily working during this pandemic. However, even if you have only shared spaces, use pillows at dividers. Signal in some way to yourself and others, this is your work space..
2. Plan out your day, your team’s day and your family’s day: Every morning, my team and I touch base on WhatsApp or have a Zoom call to align our tasks and deliverables for the day. We’re a publicly listed company so have responsibilities that cannot be shelved or deferred until after the quarantine. Everyone has daily, weekly and monthly job descriptions that are clearly known to themselves and each other. For those of you who have kids, plan their day out as well. Even if they are not on an online school, as most Pakistani schools are simply closed, give them projects to do, whether writing stories, reading books or even drawing. These are much more creative and developing activities than watching Netflix or playing video games. As children are high energy, some families create at home obstacle courses – even in tiny apartments – and creatively coming up with ways to keep children occupied.
3. Eat meals together: One of the most wonderful things to have come out of this very difficult time is our family has lunch together at home. By having three set meal times, we have a structured schedule as well as joint breaks where we can check in and spend quality time together.
4. Take scheduled breaks and set boundaries to protect your non-working hours: Sometimes under the pressure of trying to do it all, you forget to take a moment to breathe and collect your thoughts. Schedule 10-15 min breaks every 90 minutes or so.
5. Enjoy yourself: Yes, it is a scary, unpredictable time, but it’s still your life and part of your personal journey. Build in pockets of learning (such as reading), self-development (taking another online course) or even networking (connect someone you’ve been meaning to for ages).
T. U. Dawood is CEO of 786 Investments Ltd., President of Dawood Global Foundation, and sits on the boards of Pakistan State Oil and Pakistan Refinery Ltd.
1. Get organised: Choose a quiet and well-lit place to set up your workstation. Try to create boundaries for your workspace that don’t overlap too much with your living space.
2. Make a plan: Using a to do list is a powerful way to gain control of your time. Check off items during the day as your finish them; this gives a sense of accomplishment.
3. Me-time: Make sure to include some time for yourself as you need it too.
4. Be realistic: Allow reasonable time for tasks. Don’t schedule work for every moment. Leave space for breaks and the unexpected.
5. Be extra communicative: Working remotely, we miss out on our corridor and lunch chats, so plan time to simply chat with your colleagues and work friends over WhatsApp, Google, Zoom or whatever works for you.
Narmeen Khan is Managing Director of Mondelez Pakistan
1. Plan your day: Have a schedule and routine in place. Make time slots for tasks on hand pertaining to official duties and homely chores.
2. Get adequate sleep and enough rest: Usually people go in a frenzy watching their favourite shows and movies and not get enough sleep. Lack of sleep causes low immunity.
3. In the morning, shower and get dressed rather than lounging in your pyjamas all day: The right dress code has a positive effect on your emotional well-being.
4. Allocate some time for exercise: There is a tendency to become couch potatoes during this time of confinement which can adversely affect one’s physical and mental well-being. Do spot exercises or the treadmill or whatever you can manage, but do get some physical activity in your daily routine.
5. Immerse yourself in the realms of literature: Catch up on reading all those books that you always wanted to but could not manage to because of your busy schedule.
Moneeza Butt is a Partner at KPMG Pakistan
1. Have a permanent work space at home: I have kept a permanent work space at home. This helps me stay more focused.
2. Follow the rule of 3: I follow the rule when setting up goals for myself and my team for the day.The rule of three is a very general rule in speaking, in writing, and in music, that states that concepts or ideas presented in threes are inherently more interesting, more enjoyable, and more memorable.
3. Don’t work in pjs: I don’t work in my pjs. Even if I don’t leave the house, I like to dress for work as I used to do for my office.
4. Set work hours: I make sure to set up my work hours and abide by them. I try and follow a strict routine and set specific work hours to be more focused, more alert, and more productive.
5. Check up on colleagues: Checking up on my co-workers and working as a team virtually is important. This helps boost my team's morale and gives a sense of continuity.
Yasmin Dadabhoy is CEO of Troy Group.
Last but not least, as we work to maintain the balance, it’s also important to focus on yourself. Here, Saeeda shares some tips regarding grooming yourself at home:
1. Don’t dye your hair at home: Disasters can happen so just touch up the hair roots with a colour powder.
2. Start your own beauty regime:Do a nail and hair care routine for home.
3. Keep your skin hydrated: Drink lots of water and use collagen spray.
4. Boost yourself by taking care of yourself: Diet, exercise and rest.
SaeedaMandiwalla is the CEO of Toni&Guy Pakistan.