Mandeep Virdee, Programme Manager
Returning from her maternity leave in March, Mandeep is juggling her return to work with the care of her three children.
How has your working life changed since the pandemic began?
Very interesting question! Having returned from eight months of maternity leave in March (with our third child who is ten months old), I initially thought that I had everything in hand. I’d discussed my office days and work from home days with my manager who was super supportive; I hired a great nanny and got through the first few weeks of both my son and nanny getting used to each other by nervously watching from a distance – trying very hard not to intervene! Then suddenly, in mid-March we had to put our nanny on standby and tell her not to come to work anymore because of the government restrictions. My husband and I knew that was going to be a huge challenge since the nanny would have looked after the baby during the day while the other two would be at school – allowing us to get on with our work. The coming weeks in isolation with all the kids staying at home and working at the same time was intense and exhausting (with me surviving on little sleep in the first place). I found that I was getting overly anxious and stressed during the first few days as I was trying to work various hours of the day and night. I realised that the work pattern just wasn’t cutting it, alongside work demands and deadlines – not to forget a baby who I was still nursing and was painfully teething at the same time.
How are you striking a good work-life balance?
My husband and I recognised that we needed to take turns with our working patterns to manage all our responsibilities. He now takes mornings off since he works for a US based company and I take afternoons off – especially as Civica has encouraged us to take time off to achieve a better work-life balance. I’ve also started to manage a client based in Australia so we have our workshop calls at midnight and early in the morning when my kids are asleep. This is a blessing in disguise as I feel like I’m giving back to Civica while still working flexibly. I try my best to step away from my desk as my husband’s work day starts but sometimes that’s not possible, so I’ve been known to have the baby with me during internal meetings. The team’s very supportive so I don’t even feel that I need to apologise. I’m not sure how long I can sustain taking afternoons off from a business standpoint but so far, it’s working great.
What is the biggest challenge for you right now?
For me it’s making sure that I stay on top of things: that I continue to be productive given the different time zones and client demands and to make sure nothing ‘slips’.
How is Civica supporting you?
Civica’s management team has been simply great. With my return from mat leave I even had a room allocated for me at our Southbank office to express, and I’ve been given the flexibility I require to make isolation and homeworking work for us. I’m honest on what I can achieve, the approach is calm and supportive, and there’s a lot of give and take – which is all great.
What are the upsides to your new working life?
I get to see and spend time with my baby and not worry about rushing home to take over from the nanny. I can observe my older kids study and attend school remotely, and there was even one day when we were all in conference calls! I’m pleased that I have a job under the current climate and that I can strike a good work-life balance. As a family, we go for a walk (me with the buggy and the kids on their bikes) everyday which is simply brilliant. We also play various games en route like scavenger hunts which adds fun to our day.
What advice do you have for others who may be in the same or similar situation to you?
Don’t be afraid to ask for flexibility – anyone should understand because we’re all in the same boat. Don’t be afraid to prioritise what is important for any given day – keep a ‘to do’ list even if it’s growing. Also, encourage older kids to help you out – we have taught our nine-year-old how to put the washing machine on and load and unload the dishwasher, while the older one can rustle up a delicious pasta and a scrumptious simple curry!
What are your top tips for socialising and relaxing outside of work right now?
We use FaceTime and Zoom with close family and friends and we even managed to play Monopoly remotely (although we had a lot of people cheat!). We celebrated my aunt’s 60th birthday over the Easter weekend via Zoom where 25 families all dialled in at the same time, including my Nan who’s in a care home! It’s also important to make time for neighbours – we’re on a rota to do a food shop and pop into the pharmacy for a few vulnerable ones. I even managed to cook extra food to provide quick lunches for a neighbour who had been recently discharged from hospital.
Any final thoughts?
Civica has been simply great; my senior management and colleagues have been so understanding. I honestly don’t think I could have done or achieved any of this without them and the continued support and encouragement both my peers and leaders provide. We are all in this together.