The Joys and Struggles of Working from Home

The trials and tribulations of working from home and how to better your experience.

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By Ralph Jardine, Head of People Excellence, CMB

Ralph E Jardine

Before we were in the midst of a global pandemic, I made a pledge to myself that 2020 would be my year of self-care. My goal was to eat healthier, work out more and get a full night’s rest as often as possible. This resolution proved to be easier than I imagined when most of the world, including HSBC U.S., went into lockdown and followed mandatory work from home orders.

I am used to a two-hour commute each way from my home in New Jersey to the HSBC offices in midtown Manhattan, but now I take advantage of those four hours I have gotten back due to this sudden change of lifestyle. It has certainly been an adjustment period for all, but some advice I can give is to take time for you. Whether that is blocking time off your calendar from meetings to get desk work done, going for a 15-minute walk in the middle of the day or practicing deep breathing exercises, it will pay off to take the time to do these small things for yourself.

Managing Family and Friends With Work

19 years ago, I was blessed with twins and although they were extremely disappointed to have their first year of living on a college campus cut short, my wife and I were relieved to have them home and safe. Due to preexisting health conditions and other reasons for medical attention, having them home has been a time to cherish… we can do more, check-in more and be there for emotional support around the clock. Conversations like what classes to pick for next semester are now easier and deeper than just the quick and sometimes disconnected phone call it was before.

So even with some bumps in our road, the working from home experience has been a productive and calmer time for my family… but I know for many, it has not. My advice to ‘take time for you’ seems simple, but I know after talking with both colleagues and friends that it can be hard to do. The struggles of working from home can sometimes be overwhelming and difficult to manage so I am grateful that in my role as the Head of People Excellence, I am given the opportunity to hear from a wide range of employees, listen to their stories and find ways to help.

It is clear that no two people have had the same experience during these months of quarantine, but we all had the shared experience of abruptly adapting to a new way a living. Many colleagues are cooped up in small apartments, some are home schooling their children while balancing a full-time job, some have relocated to other parts of the country away from their city homes. In the most extreme and concerning circumstances, some colleagues who may have used their offices as an escape from chaotic personal lives now face difficult circumstances as they 100% work from home. My People Excellence team and I are determined to acknowledge and support our colleagues in any way we can.

To better help, HSBC had created a hub of employee resources that features articles on topics such as how to manage small children during the workday, cooking recipes, mental health services, online exercise classes, career development and so much more. Although this was available prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an abundance of information and insight has been added in the last three months. One of the most obvious struggles has been working from home with small children. It is likely that you have seen a colleague’s child pop into the background of a Zoom call, interrupt to ask for lunch or meetings pushed because Mom or Dad had to facilitate an online learning class.

I recently asked my colleagues, Eric, Stacey and Julie, about their unique working from home experiences with younger kids, and here is what they had to say:

I have 4 boys, ages 7 to 1, and working from home during quarantine has been an adjustment for everyone. There were highs of being present to see the older kids adapt and adjust to completing their school year virtually, as well as being able to help with the baby (he was 6 months when this all started – Half his life!). There were also some trying times like putting them to bed with my headset still on during PPP. For me there has been more good than bad and I hope others are able to say the same.

Eric Andrew, VP & Head of US CMB KYC Services

It has been great to have the extra time with my kids as I now work from home, but it has definitely added extra stress onto my day.

Stacey Tillmanns, Marketing Manager

While the mandate to work from home has had its challenges (no dedicated workspace, kids popping in on video conferences, having to wake the teenagers at 3 p.m...), it has also been a good experience. I was fortunate enough to be home with my five kids for the duration. We got to know each other better over this time. I was able to have dinner with them every night because their normal events were cancelled. We spent more quality time in the pool or playing games together. And I got to learn about algebra, geometry and biology again! The thing I learned most from this experience is how important it is to keep you priorities straight and to be vigilant at maintaining those priorities. It has been both a challenge and a reward.

Julie Barba, Manager Digital Platforms

As I think back on our time in the office, I miss the human interaction, I miss the quick chat with a coworker at their desk or in the elevator and I miss the sharing of ideas without a screen in-between. I look forward to the day where I can interact with my team and colleagues in person again but until then, I continue to encourage you to take care of yourself even when it feels impossible to find the time, reach out if you need help and know that you are not alone.

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