30 January, 2015

Being a Child AND a Parent

Challenges inspire you to be much more than what you think you are.

It was in the early months of 2010, when for the first time in my life, I was faced with a challenge so realistic that there was nothing else to do than overcome it. My mother at that time had unfortunately suffered from vertigo that left her weak and nearly bed-ridden to carry out her daily tasks of home. A home-keeper for nearly 20 years, she rested for most of the time; very unlike her bustling, work-loving nature.

With my father working hard at office, and a little sister still too young to handle serious housework, I took up the responsibility of managing the home. It wasn’t really new to me since from a young age I enjoyed fiddling around at home. Except for cleaning & dusting I pretty much handled household tasks quite well. What was new to me however, was managing my career AND home cohesively.

This was my challenge in 2010 - Managing a home, attending to my mother and handling my work. My mother’s condition required someone to be at home with her for a major part of the day. It wasn’t sure at that time for how long this condition of hers would continue. It wasn't a choice between work OR home for me; I wanted to continue with work and be in touch with all that was happening but I also wanted to be there for my mother. I knew I could do it, just how I could do it had to be answered.

Not before long, I came up with a solution that would help me handle both these matters in an equal manner. I took up a part time job that was from 9:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m which left the rest of the day free for me to manage home activities and look after my mother.

My days schedule was something like this: wake up, help with getting breakfast ready, get ready for work, go to work, come back, prepare lunch, go to pick up my sister from school, go grocery shopping, accompany my mother to various doctors/tests (on some days), do household chores, prepare tea, prepare dinner, sleep, wake up the next day. That was my routine for two whole years.

It wasn’t as easy as it looks written out here. The doctor’s diagnosis, the un-ending number of treatments, the innumerable tests, the not-knowing how long it would take my mother to recover, the infinite household tasks, juggling work, along with the uncertainty of her illness all combined to form tremendous emotional, mental and physical pressure - the magnitude of which I had hardly encountered before. 

There were many times when my energy would simply drain out with this daily regimen. I held out and put on a brave face for my mother and my family. My work was there for me at that time to take a bit of pressure off me. I made good friends there who were themselves mothers and we are still in touch even though we no longer work in the same workplace. They were my pillars of strength and I’ll always be grateful to them.

Here's me at my stress-buster workplace:

This period also brought me closer to my true love – Writing! If you see in my blog archives, the year 2010 and 2011 each have the most number of posts by me – 26. Not a huge number I know but stable enough. This was the period when I had the time to pursue my writing fervently. Blogging was especially therapeutic for me. It helped me channel my strenuous overload in a healthy and productive way. I even wrote a blog post about it at that time calling it Trainee Home-maker in which you will find a light-hearted but exact description of my daily grind at that time.

This was the period when I learnt that sometimes we don’t know our true potentials. We are much more worth than we think we are. Our true strength enables us to overcome our deepest, darkest fears. That strength lies in our will. When you’ve got to do something, you DO. There’s no two ways about it. 

Most importantly, the challenge made me realize that besides being a daughter, sister, employee, writer, home-maker and friend; I was a Child AND a Parent. It was a unique experience to be a dutiful child and a complete parent for my mother.

I am proud and happy that nerve-wracking as it was, this challenge brought out the best in me! I handled our home, attended to my mother, and also performed well at my job. It was never about work OR  home, it was work AND home.

P.S: My mother hasn’t completely recovered but her condition has improved, so much so that she’s back to being the workaholic she always has been (though in smaller doses).

This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus“.

Here's a beautiful video from Gillette Venus that encourages you to #UseYourAnd :


Venice :)

03 January, 2015

Open Plan vs. Personal Space-friendly Office

The concept of personal space is absent in most offices. Gone are the days of cubicles where you could sit secure in your cubby-hole and work away or unwind a little bit without having your co-workers having much knowledge of it. Now are the days of open plan offices where anyone and everyone can see every minute action of yours. There is simply no privacy and no personal space – you are like an open book to the whole office.

While it may be a great idea to have an open plan office from the point of view of more open communication and bonding, the idea has its faults. Co-workers, especially immature and unprofessional ones, don’t realize when they intrude on your duties. They harp over your head about this-and-that and of things that have no connection whatsoever to anything!

Besides this, several offices cramp everyone together. While you’re working your colleague’s elbow hits you, or the arm rest of their chair knocks into yours, or their mouse comes near your keyboard while their personal belongings creep near to your PC. It’s aggravating, annoying and at times intolerable to work in such situations.

The open plan also breeds an element of tremendous distraction. Your senses are open to your immediate surroundings. Focusing on work becomes a humongous challenge with the receptionist’s telephone ringing, clients walking in and out, seniors firing their assistants, sharing funny social media memes, etc. all pulling your senses in different directions leading to utter mayhem at your work desk.

Like in everything in life, there has to be boundaries set. An open plan office needs to make sure that while employees can still communicate freely and co-ordinate smoothly, they also need to be provided adequate room to perform well without external factors impeding their duties. Work performance is affected by the factors mentioned above and hence the demarcations have to be drawn for the optimal performance of every employee balanced with a friendly-office environment.

Since I’ve always liked Psychology, I’m going to be taking a slight bend here that’s connected to this topic.

While extroverts in the office might LOVE the idea of an open plan due to the immense opportunities it offers for interaction and communication, introverts privately cringe at being exposed to the whole world like that. Introverts gain comfort and are at peace when they have all their personal space for their own. An open plan office is enough to jar their senses and keep them from performing to the best of their skills, experience and abilities, to an extent. A quiet place, sound-proofed from noise, barred from distracting sights, and secluded from social interactions is simply heavenly bliss for introverts.

An open plan office does nothing but drain the energy of an introvert. Their head feels like a whirlwind or a tornado amidst the cacophony of an open plan office. Introverts need tranquility and breathing space in order to perform smoothly. An open plan office can actually affect their mood and make them feel deeply uneasy. It’s a very unsettling, restless feeling that crawls inside them in such an environment.

If you have introverts in your office, please take care of their preferences in order for them to work well. Sit down with them, ask them how they would like to work, make their work desks a place where they can adroitly perform the duties assigned to them. Then look back and see the satisfied smiles on their faces.

By all means, have an open plan office but remember that you have to make adjustments for those talented, hardworking employees who can work best in a slightly different environment.

After all, a successful office is one that has happy employees.

Here’s an example by Susan Cain, the renowned author of the best-selling Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking: Quiet Spaces where dedicated spaces are modeled into the office plan for those who need a secluded and focused environment to work in.

What are your thoughts about this? Do you feel your professional best in an open plan office or would you like to have space of your own to work in?

Venice :)