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Working from home with Anna El Ali

Our Head of People & Culture Anna, shares a day in her life working from home with her 2 young boys and her top 5 tips to staying productive!

By Anna El Ali

15 April 2020

5.15am: Somehow I am up before my alarm and the sun but most excitedly before the boys. I make my coffee and sit outside enjoying the stillness and peace and quiet which won’t last very long.

6.00am: Training time. Gyms are closed and with the boys still sleeping, I set up my gear in the dark, on the wet lawn, avoiding the doggy doo. It’s just me, some dumbbells and training apps to semi replicate your PT or group training session (I highly recommend Kayla Itsines SWEAT or Centr (Chris Hemsworth) for tough workouts at home!). Then it’s meditation time which I cannot live without especially when you are isolating at home in a busy and noisy household (would also recommend CALM that has a meditation to suit everyone, including lots of sleep meditation sessions that do wonders when you cannot switch off at the end of the day).

7.30am: Showered and dressed (hair not done, that’s a stretch). Workday begins (kids still asleep…) I am going through emails and planning priorities for the day. I like to get in the habit of checking in with my team first thing and letting them know my plans for the morning. It’s not the same as going and grabbing a coffee together but so important for a leader to say hi without needing anything. 

8.30am: Kids are finally awake, sleepy-eyed and still coming to terms with another day of homeschooling. A fight ensures for the possible brekky options (Tim Tams or chips are not an option) and we agree on bagels with cream cheese & avo. Then it’s time to get get them set up (logins don’t work, call the school and sorted!), do the dishes, make the up beds, throw a load of washing in and make another coffee (a strong one!). 

 9.30am: Finalise input for our board papers, review a couple of job descriptions, respond to the mile-long list of emails and the Slack messages… Then plough through pulling together resources for our leaders, working remotely means new challenges for all.

10.30am: It’s recess for the boys. I cut them some fruit, get them outside to kick a ball before checking what they need to do next on the schedule. I run to make it onto a Zoom meeting, just to find the camera isn’t working ☹

11.30am: My boys set up and ready to go, but the boys are fighting. Just as I am jumping on another Zoom call there is a knock on the door, “Mum, I don’t know what I need to do”, so my 7 year old joins me at my home office desk, and I tutor him while I am on a call (and I hope no one can see my gallant attempt at multi-tasking). 

12.30pm: It’s lunch time, the boys are more frustrated then hungry. I make some salmon buddha bowls (the joys of lunch prep at home!) and argue why we just can’t we just call it a day, we have done so much already and this isn’t ‘real’ school. So I send them outside again and do a boxing round with them which they absolutely love, repeat the dishes, and get started on dinner, I eat the boys’ leftovers and then back online for all of us.

 1.30pm: Time to get on the phone. Boys are fighting so hiding in the study and closing all doors! That fails so I offer some treats in exchange for quiet, maybe that will work.

3.30pm: I am off the phone; school day is over so they’re outside again playing baseball. I can get some work done. Lots to catch up on but at least it’s quiet now. Then zoom 1:1’s with my team, a webinar  and then a few other meetings. Boys back inside and finally allowed on their gadgets. They have eaten the hidden treats but it’s okay, they are quiet!

5.45pm: Finally done with meetings for the day. Sit down with the boys for 10 minutes, they are never too old for cuddles. I get them to help me finish dinner, it’s chicken curry on the menu tonight and the little one loves cutting the veggies, my little sous chef!

6:15pm:  I sit down for dinner and feeling exhausted, but it’s time to walk the family Cavoodle, Mr. Chewy (aka Chewbacca). They never want to go but when they are finally out, they don’t want to go home and they don’t stop talking, which is nice. “No, we cannot stop by Macca’s for a slurpy on the way home”… “But Mum PLEASE!”…. We got slurpies.  

8.00pm: After a lazy hour in front of the telly, it’s shower time, then off to bed with a story and a protest. At long last, they are asleep. 

8.30pm: Back online to finish off replying to emails, tying loose ends and planning for tomorrow… Rinse and repeat.

Working from home, home-schooling and being a Mum is overwhelming, chaotic and sometimes you want to cry but here are my tips on how to get through it:

  1. Routine is King – plan your day, break times, meals and what you need to achieve for the day. Do this every night to get you sorted for the next day.
  2. Exercise and meditate – find time to be active and it can be as simple as going for a walk. Meditation is a great way to exercise your mind and soul and stay present. I find it to be soul healing. 
  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself – take time to think of the positives and make sure you pat yourself on the back for getting through the day.
  4. Communicate with work – let work know if you are offline or need to focus on other tasks, the more you communicate the more everyone will accommodate you. This will also make you a lot less stressed out throughout the day.
  5. Hug your kids and have a laugh with them – this is hard on them too, they need to feel they are also doing a great job so hug them, love them and have a laugh together.