Flexi working- finally the new norm!

Sunday Times polled people during lock downs to gauge their attitudes towards Remote working results in August were:

45% of workers expected to work more flexibly post lock down

33% expected at least 3days a weeks to work from home

81% expected at least 1 day remote working….

Flexi work- it’s official everybody With polls like  that☝🏽:-

I must say, this I have been hoping for since I became a mother. How such common sense was almost obscured from view for this long is almost ridiculous to imagine. I remember how I saw this as the blooming obvious way forward to counter costs for childcare that seemed to be spiralling higher and higher. This to an extent sadly I recall led many mums of non-school attending kids choosing to stop entering or practising as social workers. I too almost gave in had it not been for me finding an amazing Germany au pair who moved in with us for 18months and enabled me to return to work following the birth of my son. I had sworn that I would not be leaving my son in a nursery setting type before he was at least 2years old.

This resolve had come about following a painful 1 day trial at a local children’s nursery. I recalling literary weeping as I picked my then 9month old covered not only in dirt but dry poo, wee and stale wet clothes (not his by the way as he had been changed into some random oversized dirty baby overalls apparently) as I picked him at the end of the day. What shocked me the most was that regardless of my instant take that it seemed as if my baby had been crying for such a long time, given that he had dried blocked noses and streaks of multiple layers of tears stains running down his cheeks- the nursery assistant’s report to me was that “he had a really lovely day, ate well and even made a new friend” I was like… really! as my insides churned with disbelieve , regret and sadness. This was not helped by my observing another possibly 7month old who was crying sitting alone against one corner with no worker seemingly worried or bothered as I picked mine. I imagined this was exactly how my own son spent today feeling. My little boy’s face was so sad and his eyes looked hollow and I so wished he could speak to tell it all but again was relieved he couldn’t as I feared he would have said “what the hell mum….what was that about? Why on earth did you leave me here?”

So, Flexi and remote working becoming main-stream to me feels like the natural reasonable and logic way forward.

Flexi working in general not just in Social work post COVID looks  totally different yet almost inevitable . Not least the dress code could be heading south in a big way. Social workers in the past were notorious for rubbish dressing. One would say, they absolutely did not care how they projected their image. Social interpreters and observers even going the word “sandal-socked” fashion bashers especially for them. Its beginning to look like all professionals now due to working from home may find that dressing up will become less necessary- apart from that crisp white shirt and tie and jacket on top with your favourite pyjama bottoms or shorts for those Teams or Zoom calls. However, it’s the in thing now to almost forget you have that court shoe which is sadly gathering dust in the back of your shoe closet. Is this the end of high fashion brands?

As I was reading the Sunday Newspapers the columnist India Knight  speculated on how Covid has changed how we dress because rocking the latest look now seems pointless. I caught myself agreeing 100% with this as I contemplated the last time I rocked a suit since lock down- let me see…never actually! What, with even some court hearings going virtual. As a social worker mainly the need to dress up has always been unnecessary because as I was advised during my training  that if you’re trying to relate to young people or less privileged families and aiming at building  an effective relationship with them, you didn’t  want to dress up to look like someone who might oppress them with your tailored suits and trendy slacks, so, hay ho..dressing up is toast! 

COVID-19 has indeed made dressing down acceptable. Sweat pants are in with a vengeance. The Sunday Times reports that even massive fashion brands such as Ester Lauder are cutting up to 2000 jobs as they react to waning profits  due to decrease in sales and perhaps going virtual and needing less staff due to man their brick and mortar shop fronts.

In social work since the lock down we are like all areas in the society have too gone virtual. All our core-group meetings and conferences are done virtually. This is still on-going even following easing of lockdown restrictions. Building we could use pre- COVID are still closed.  I must say some of families I work with have gone super fade up with lack of face to face as they seem to be struggling with video calling and are calling for the return to physical meetings. I don’t personally see this happening soon due to risks these meetings could present. Imagine the transmission rate to start with. For instant on average most of my meeting reviews usually have 7 core members comprising of parents and professionals. So, if I continued having 3-4 core groups  a day as I can logistically do now given these meeting being virtual- (Needless to say this is an impossible stunt to pull logistically given the physical distances of venues I would need to go to), but lets just say I was able to… anyway, given that I am a Super woman; I could literary spread COVID to 100s of people a week alone and raise the R- rate to stratosphere single- handedly if I contracted COVID-19. 

Of course the other difficult it will take us much longer to adjust to reasonable levels of meeting statutory targets with the caseloads we are currently managing. Lo and beyond this would be crazy to expect the same standards in meeting targets post Covid since caseloads would not naturally correspond accordingly by dropping- cause if truth be told- you can only do so much in any given 35-37hrs week. In fact any social worker will tell you how we work almost double of these hours on average in the hope that you could take these hours as TOIL(but again realistically- this also is next to impossible without sending you spinning or wasting time you have taken stressing and anxious about what mess you will find awaiting you upon your return. It’s a vicious cycle and we endlessly find ourselves chasing our tails days in day out.

So in a nutshell COVID has boiled many so long-believed to be immutable truths down to their bare bones literary such as need  to being office based when all you do is get there and get out again to attend your meetings and visits.

It signifies the end of an era for those micro managers whose sole purpose is to progress and maintain the bums on the sit policy.  I used to have one vicious manager who had a habit of strategically sitting in the office checking her watch as you entered the office after 9am asking “which family were you visiting this early love? 

I must say, I salute and welcome remote working. May it live forever. High performing employers like Virgin in the business world sassed this long back, why did it take Social work this long to implement this practice too? Richard Branson oink years ago was already saying flexible working was reducing overhead costs and saving his companies money by reducing office space while also cutting his companies’ carbon footprint.

So, finally!, the ingrained and traditional routines of “presenteeism”are being ditched in the corporate world- social work looks like it’s heading that way too. So, goodbye hot desking, time wasting trips of driving to the office only to find all desks are occupied but above all being stuck in horrible traffic on the M6 due to congestions. While for some working mothers, it is answered prayers for juggling work and child care, for me- its simply common sense prevailing finally! One wonders why it took COVID-19 to convince the world of this common sense. Ahh- I forget. Common sense is not always common 🙂 

Author:

So, there we go…. This is my thinking pad. I am first and foremost writing this to myself but happy that you have taken time to check it out. I do hope that as you read my thoughts put on paper in a very small or big way it helps demystify social work as a profession to you. If not that, at least shed a light on how different the world looks from my point of view. I know it’s a cliche that social workers enter the profession to give back. It’s more than a job to most, it’s a calling. Hands up- I started this blog to speak up and not go silent since I too truly entered this profession to make a difference. My difference may be minuscule in the whole scheme of things- but as long as I brighten the little corner I am perched- no matter how small the corner is… I will consider it success. Amongst other little quaky habits, note I am an intentional odd sock girl which may or may not ruffle some feathers out there- random- but just saying! I also wish in my little way to contribute to newly qualified Social Workers who may find their work daunting. If you are or know anyone who finds themselves all muddled and confused in their new adventure as a Social worker- point them this way for I intend to paint a picture that Social Work is all but rocket science. It’s all too familiar to feel overwhelmed or challenged when you begin your practice but just remember, you are not alone or the first one to feel that way. In all circumstances you must always reframe your internal dialogue and constantly remind yourself that even the most qualified and confident of social workers you know once felt inadequate once upon a time. It’s important to always remind yourself that this is the first time you may be doing something- no wonder it’s difficult or challenging or taking longer than expected. With time, it will becomes easy peasy!

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