It is 8am and the first of five video conferences is about to begin. George and Anne bicker over the insufficient “dusting” of cinnamon on top of the breakfast porridge.
My husband scrambles to occupy the front of our ground-floor flat to begin writing his daily investment note. He begins to clean their faces while I stand before the bathroom mirror finishing mine.
Earrings are secured and the bedroom door shuts; pyjama bottoms have yet to become suitable attire, even in a Covid-19-stricken world. I just need to ensure the children did not readjust my computer’s camera from the appropriate angle.
Counterintuitively, many industry colleagues entered lockdown with a secret sense of enthusiasm. The thought of no commute, uninterrupted time to think and children’s bedtime stories at the end of an actual bed instead of a phone resonated well with most.
Of course, professionally, we fully understood the need to match this abnormal adjustment with a shared sense of purpose. In other words, all hands on deck. Covid-19 presented a generational challenge, not a seasonal interruption.
What we all need now is flexibility. Greystar has prioritised our wellbeing by encouraging employees to balance home and work commitments as we see fit.
While our rational side kept telling us it would be a marathon, many could not help but approach the first few weeks as though it were more of a sprint.
Today, the ‘new normal has become anything but new. Unavoidable fatigue is taking its toll. Most recognise that the path to victory remains exceedingly unanswerable and complex.
So, we find ourselves making a different type of adjustment. We’re settling into a more sustainable pace. In doing so, we are asking ourselves what our post-pandemic working lives might involve.
Home office revival
It is widely acknowledged that the pandemic has accelerated the working-from-home trend. Blackrock’s Larry Fink remarked in a recent interview that he could not see any corporate asking 100% of its workforce to go back to the office full-time.
In contrast to pre-Covid, we will likely see office-based employees in all industries agreeing more regular working-from-home arrangements.
This is a big shift that will fundamentally change what people expect from their home. Suitable working space with high-speed broadband connectivity will accompany checklists that prioritise customer service and thoughtful, well-planned amenities.
Some people may also rethink extreme open-plan living. While our in-house design teams have been building workspace as amenity into new developments from the beginning, we now need to consider a more flexible and segmented space for the home that allows individuals to adapt anything from a second bedroom to a storage closet into a well-suited home office.
Finally, locations that were previously too far for the five-day commute must also be reassessed. Two or three days on the train becomes more manageable if the benefits of more space, a lower cost of living and better access to friends and family are considered.
These are the thoughts that consume my quiet moments at the end of a weekday. The clock just struck 7pm and George has finally finished negotiating that he should only have to work one hour for home learning tomorrow.
Apparently, he and Anne have decided that mummy and daddy “shouldn’t go to work any more, as everyone should just stay home and play”.
Although I try explaining, he doesn’t seem to grasp the realities and responsibilities of being a working parent. We are all facing our own set of unique challenges, but one thing we can take comfort in is that we are truly in this together.
Michela Hancock is managing director of Greystar