Welcome to our second blog in the series Life during lockdown. This time we hear from Mai, our VP of Marketing. With two pre-teens at home, she’s become an avid multi-tasker and a master planner. Balancing work and a hectic home life is now second nature. Here she talks about her daily routine and the rules she’s put in place to help her stay happy and on track.
What is your living situation?
I live with my husband and two ‘tweenage’ kids in Hertfordshire.
How are you finding this new reality?
From a professional standpoint, we quickly established effective ways of working with the team and soon found our rhythm. We are lucky to be an agile tech business and from day one, all of us were set up with the right equipment and tech stack (such as Slack, Asana, Jira, LucidChart), to enable good communication, teamwork and project management.
The new reality of working at home every day and homeschooling two children was a bit of a challenge at first - I wasn’t sure I would be capable of juggling this. But with some good forward planning and a daily timetable, it’s actually running very smoothly!
How did this new lifestyle affect your day to day? What's your new routine?
I do miss the daily interaction with colleagues, and the off the cuff catch ups that tend to happen in a physical space. Now I have a more structured day, where many catch ups need to be scheduled, which some days lead to an endless series of video calls.
On weekdays, I have a set routine:
- Morning exercise. I usually start with a run on the treadmill, which I sometimes move to in the evening if my diary is super busy and requires an earlier start.
- Setting up the kids. My kids are quite independent, making their own breakfast before they get onto their homeschooling timetable set up through apps such as Show My Homework, Google Classroom, Purple Mash. Online classes and revision apps used by their schools, such as Memrise or Duolingo and Hegarty Maths, are proving a great help. Unluckily for my kids, I also set extra homework on top of the class work, with added revision books and tests. Nowadays many working parents have turned to online tutoring or nannying, which I would have considered if my kids weren’t able to study independently.
- Getting down to business. I get through my work day (with video calling and Slack messaging aplenty!) with minimal interruption, checking in on the kids from time to time. Since the lockdown, I’ve also set up a second desk next to mine, for my kids to come and sit next to me to do their homework whenever they feel too lonely in their bedrooms.
- Evening exercise. I close the day with a workout 7-8pm before dinner. My exercise routine has of course changed since the lockdown, with Be Military Fit (the outdoor military fitness classes I normally join twice a week) reinventing their service online for the period of isolation. In fact, working from home has meant I am able to exercise daily rather than twice a week.
- Relax. After dinner, we relax as a family, often with board games (with Go Go Burrito a family favourite!) or a movie, before I go on to cook the meals for the next day.
Has working from home affected your work/life balance?
Overall, my work/life balance has improved.
While I’ve ended working longer days, I get to see more of my children and my husband (who usually spends the best part of the week working abroad but is no longer allowed to travel). I also have more opportunities to exercise than before.
However, I do miss meeting up with friends and colleagues, and going out.
What tips do you have for separating the two?
I think it’s important to not let work run into your personal time in the evening.
At the beginning, I found it difficult to stop at the end of the day, and if it wasn’t to make dinner or for my workout, I would probably keep going forever.
So make sure you set a milestone that you look forward to, to end your work day. Defining a good structure around your day, including when work starts and finishes, is paramount in my opinion.
What have you found the hardest while we're in the quarantine?
While I’ve adapted to working from home and social distancing well, I still miss the human interaction with people outside of my family - whether with friends or colleagues.
The forced reliance on digital communication channels such as videoconference and messaging apps means that I spend most of my time in front of a screen. But like most people, I prefer to interact with others in person, so not being able to do so has been the hardest adjustment to make.
Have you learned anything new about yourself in this time?
The big thing I learned about myself is that I am able to relax!
Before the lockdown, my life was so intense: weekdays with a long commute to work (leaving home early, getting home late), followed by more duties such as picking up the kids from their evening activities, then back on my laptop to do more work once the kids are in bed; weekends spent taxiing the kids around to their various sports matches or training, and doing more work as well as catching up on house chores with some socialising in between.
Now, I make a clean break at the end of the work day to exercise then relax with my family. On weekends, there are no more sports and social activities, so I basically have two free days to relax some more, which I didn’t know I was capable of. I am really not the type to be idle, always moving from one task to another and letting work bleed into my personal life… But I have learnt to delineate work and home life, and to take time off and relax - and I actually enjoy it!
Name top 3 activities you’ve been keeping yourself occupied with
I used to only have time to read during my commute back from London on the train, but I now have much more time for it which is really nice.
Secondly, I am having to do more cooking. I never loved cooking, but I have been forced to do this everyday since the lockdown, and it’s been nice especially in the evening. The hardest thing in my opinion is to come up with ideas and variety in the menu, and to be lucky to find all the ingredients in store these days!
Finally, I also now do lots more tidying up and cleaning than before. I forgot how rewarding it was to do it yourself when you see your house in an immaculate state!
Can you recommend any books / podcasts?
I recently read What you do is who you are from Ben Horowitz, co-founder at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. It’s a book about business culture, and although I didn’t agree with the author on everything, I found it an inspiring read because of the many historical and cultural references Ben uses to bring his conceptual thinking to life. Very different to other books about company culture that focus more on concepts and methods.
We have a fantastic culture at Digital Risks that we pride ourselves on: diverse, open, friendly, collaborative, respectful. While we all have very different personalities and personal backgrounds, with 10 nationalities out of a team of 34, we all have the same values in common≈.