In good times, in bad times and in pandemic times…
The most common statement about COVID-19 is that it ceased long time ago to be a health crisis and reached into all the territories a crisis could have access to, including development. Its impact on gender equality is a considerable one too. Ranging from the increase in domestic violence and higher rates of divorce, the lock-downs put additional pressure on families and households, especially on the already fragile one in terms of gender equality and equilibrium.
At UNDP Moldova, we wanted to keep the pulse on the well-being and life-work balance of our team and we joined the #EqualPartners initiative that helped us find out more information on how our colleagues are handling the redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work. We also wanted to know what did the isolation period brought each one of us in terms of lessons learnt and wisdom for future similar situations.
So, we knocked at virtual doors and asked our colleagues to share pieces of their lives in COVID-19 times. Questions that any of us would like to be asked once in a while and not only in crisis times.
How did the pandemics affect your life-work balance?
Ina Zglavuta (Communications Officer, EU4MD: Focal Regions Programme): I’m the person who loves to work outside the home. The house , was the place where I dedicated my time to “me time”, family, friends. The pandemic overturned this modus vivendi. It took me a while to learn to work efficiently from home. Now I almost manage to work from the kitchen without thinking about food, from the bedroom — without falling asleep while writing a press release or from the girls’ room — without getting upset with toys and clothes left all over the floor.
Dmitrii Parfentiev (Project Manager/Business Development, EU4MD:Focal Regions Programme): The work-life balance is a delicate thing. You start sometimes earlier, finish late. Kids’ care and home schooling are particularly time consuming but still thrilling. You find yourself confined to the same premises and have to figure out how to separate your life, kids’ life, partner’s life and work. It might be challenging. I found a stadium nearby so I jog for some good fitness and mental relaxation.
Tatiana Panfil (Procurement Associate, Country Office): I missed very much communication with colleagues and friends. However we kept seeing the closest relatives, like grandparents and brothers with their families. I feel like I’m working more from home and I’m more productive, but at the same time I do a lot of non-related work activities, like sport, painting, gardening, sweets cooking — I didn’t do this for a long time. I also have time for reading and going to sleep in time, and having fun with my kids.
Alexandru Cocirta (Programme Analyst/Effective governance, Country Office): It is more difficult to balance between the work tasks and family needs, as there are always temptations and distractions between the videocalls and writing emails. At the same time, it is an opportunity to discover the hidden talents of my child.
Alexandru Rotaru (Project Manager, Green City Lab): When all these started, I was a little bit confused and somehow scared, but now I find this time spent at home very useful. The work-life balance is somehow affected as there is always a mix of job tasks and home responsibilities.
What did you learn from this experience and what advice you would give to yourself (or others) at the beginning of the pandemics if you could travel back in time?
Ina Zglavuta: I learned from the actual experience (because theoretically I knew) that I should not depend on external things. I have to learn to feel good about myself, even if the outside realities are gloomy.
If I would go through this experience again, I wouldn’t live in the illusion that the pandemic will end soon and I will return to my usual pace of life. The thought “there is not much left of this” was carefully hosted in my brain for some good weeks. And that turned out to be wasted time for me.
Dmitrii Parfentiev: My main advice to myself would be to try to set realistic goals and stick to them.
Tatiana Panfil: I would value more my interpersonal relationships, talk to friends in person, not by phone. I would advice myself to travel more when it is possible! 😊
Alexandru Cocirta: Keep safe, stay home! Disconnect at 6 pm and do not touch the laptop during the weekends 😊. Always mute yourself during the video calls, if you are not speaking. Refill the supply of ‘relaxing’ drinks/beverages.
Alexandru Rotaru: First advice would be to avoid unnecessary media information regarding the pandemic, as this creates additional stress which makes the person ultimately more vulnerable. Follow only trusted sources of information. Working from home is very useful for the parents, as it bring you closer to the dearest ones and teaches you to be more patient. Time is the only one thing we cannot bring back, especially the one that we can spend with our children.
Why is it so important to involve your partner and family in household activities?
Ina Zglavuta: This is like asking why do I need air. The contribution of the partner is crucial in such times and always.
Dmitrii Parfentiev: The household activities are the second most important thing after your work. The ideal daily schedule for me contains 8 hours of work, 8 for family and 8 for sleep. A good foundation of domestic chores split has to be put before any kind of pandemic. I was always in charge of dish washing. But during the pandemic you can get even more interesting things to do. My older kid — daughter started to make cakes and I am happy to help her, shop for ingredients, give her advice together with my wife and clean the kitchen after her.
Tatiana Panfil: It is important because, every member should feel valued in a family, each should be supported by other family members during the household activities. It also unites us, when during the household activities, the family members work close to each other, discuss different topics and find solutions.
Alexandru Cocirta: It is always about mutual respect, assuming responsibility and two-way learning.
Alexandru Rotaru: Working from home with two children imposed me to learn or remember additional tasks: do your work, be a father, be a cook, be a teacher and playmate. As my wife is also working and has to be physically present at the office, we divided the day in parts with all associated responsibilities. Also, the new circumstances made my older son to be more responsible and take care of his 2 years old sister when I have meetings or urgent tasks.
We conducted an #EqualPartners survey among our staff, being willing to learn how our colleagues cope with the additional burden during pandemic and what can UNDP do to improve their work-life balance.
Colleagues that have children attending school noted that they usually spend from 1–2 hours more than usual in providing help with the school. Half of the survey participants spend less time than before on their hobbies and passions, while all of them believe that women and men should share household tasks equally during the lock down. However, one in four survey participants stated that this is not the case in their household. With 15% having to take care of elders in their surroundings and the overall extra work, half of the respondents believe that their work-life balance worsened since the beginning of the lock-down.
” We should teach children that there are no women or men responsibilities, and everyone can and should share household tasks. And maybe the mindset of the society in time will hopefully change,” noted one colleague in the survey.