The Covid-19 lockdown forced many South Africans to adjust to working from home, surrounded by their locked-down family, and while stressful, it created some hilarious situations. In this satirical piece Janine Dunlop reveals how the lockdown impacted employees, and their employers.
Managers the world over are reeling over a previously unknown, but slowly emerging phenomenon. It is becoming apparent that employees have actual "home lives", complete with entire houses to maintain and actual children to raise.
While the idea that employees are human beings, perhaps even parents, was previously not unheard of, Professor Robert Kelly's scandalously interrupted BBC interview being a case in point, it was sufficiently rare that it warranted viral memes and whole articles.
The phenomenon recently came to light due to the upsurge in Zoom, Google Meet and MS Teams meetings during the Covid-19 lockdown, in which employees flagrantly flaunted their home lives, revealing their untidy kitchens and snotty children.
Rogue employees, including some bold enough to admit being amused by it all, are posting tweets such as the following:
"Today I had to excuse myself from a meeting to go tend to my child because everyon (sic) on the call heard him shout from the bathroom that he was finished with his poo..."
This parent revealed her behind-the-scenes WFH drama, tweeting "HILARIOUS! Just as I was finishing up a website demo my toddler broke into the office, screamed to climb into my lap and sang baby shark at the top of his lungs this afternoon. Finished off the call with me drawing him whales on camera."
This employee also shared her potentially mortifying experience of having a family while working, on Twitter:
"Ive also had my kod walk in to tell me she needs the toilet (apparently she needs permission) also had to excuse myself cos she turned on the hair dryer to "dry her painting" then shared my screen only to have the walrus pictures we Google come up (sic)."
Not even local celebs are safe from interruptions, as local ultra trail runner Ryan Sandes showed the country at the start of the lockdown: WATCH | Local sports celeb is interrupted by his son in live interview.
Shock and horror
Forced to confront this new and frankly, astonishing reality, one manager expressed his shock and horror.
"I had no idea," said the middle manager, who chose to remain anonymous.
"Employees having home lives is an entirely foreign concept to me. This was definitely not included in the training course I completed 20 years ago."
"My only hope is that this is all just a hoax and it goes away just as suddenly as it began."
Cutting-edge management approaches
Amazingly, not all managers are quite as shaken by this frightening new set of circumstances. We managed to unearth someone who believes she has her finger on the pulse of cutting-edge management approaches:
"This integration of children and the formal acknowledgment of multiple roles is new," said director of an international organisation, Lara Dunwell.
"I think part of it is motivated by trying to support the mental health of stressed workers - by recognising them as whole people with multiple overlapping responsibilities."
"By knowing upfront who is working from home with kids at home, a culture of acceptance and support is activated; we're less surprised when there's an interruption or an urgent muting of the mic."
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Intense management training will be necessary
The reality remains, however, that never before have managers been forced to pivot so abruptly in such an alarming direction.
The cutting-edge management style under discussion in academia at the moment has no name as yet, but the working title being bandied about is said to be: "Employees Are People Too."
Experts advise that intense management training will be necessary and, while the approach might seem reckless to some, with time, it could just catch on.
*This is a developing story.
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