“Shh! I’m having a meeting,” five-year-old Lana said sternly, tapping at the laptop that she and Mia had crafted.
Ah, yes. This is indeed what meetings look like these days.
Today is the first day that Melbournians are without childcare,Â babysitting, pet-sitting or other types of in-home support. It’s our second week for mandatory mask wearing,Â fourth week of remote learning for most school-age kids, and we can’t leave home after 8pm.
It is a particularly stressful time for those of us with caring responsibilities — young kids, elderly relatives, family members with special needs, even pets.
I’m lucky that my partner is able to share care with me. I offer my fervent well wishes to the single parents and those who need to shoulder the caring while their partner does essential work outside the home.
Shorter meetingsÂ — Can you default to 40 minutes instead of an hour? 20 instead of 30 minutes?
Delay non-essential meetingsÂ — We have six weeks of extreme juggling. Can theÂ discussion wait six weeks?
Two days for notice — If you give us forewarning about meetings, we can do time trading with our household members.
Avoid the peak times:
Support our flexible workingÂ — More than ever, we need flexibility. You might get emails from us at 5am, 10pm or on the weekends.Â I myself amÂ working afternoons and evenings, as I’m on kid duty in the morning. Others will be compressing their work week into four days. This is what we need to do to make life work so we appreciate your understanding.
The above ‘asks’ came from an office-wide group of carers during a meeting we held earlier this week. Please do ask your Melbourne colleagues if they appreciate any other kind of support.
Over the past few months, I have been wondering how an organisation actually prepares for a global pandemic. How many corporate strategic risk registers have now been updated with ‘pandemic’ or ‘black swan event’?
There’s one sure-fire way for organisations to endure a sustained loss of income: have lots of cash lying around.
â€œItâ€™s no accident… The other airlines are loaded up in debt. They have no choices. We have more than a billion in cash, so we have all kinds of options.â€
Having a strong balance sheet is how Working Heritage has thrived during COVID-19. It’s how we’re able to proactively offer rent relief to our tenants, and have been able to go ahead with major infrastructure projects like Jack’s Magazine. We are doing our bit to hold up the Victorian economy.
Yet, I wouldn’t recommend every organisation to hold onto six months worth of cash in case of an extraordinary event. That money needs to be out there driving innovation, keeping people employed, and delivering valued services.
The Guardian had an article today that helped me connect some dots. Some countries — Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam — have navigated COVID-19 remarkably well, despite not having the resources of Australia, the UK and the United States. Clear messaging has proved essential. To quote NUS Prof Dale Fisher, chair of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network at the World Health Organization:
â€œWhen you have any country with a weak leadership then people get confused. Theyâ€™re not sure what to do and who to believe, and then you legitimise ignorance…â€
Our businesses, community service organisations, corporations exist within society. They will bounce back when society purposefully and cohesively responds to the pandemic — together we will string up the safety net and overcome the peak as fast as possible.
Systemic and pervasive shocks and stresses like pandemic, like climate change, shouldn’t be (only) the responsibility of individual organsations to be ready for. We are all invested in the resilience of our society. It’s the difference between a business trying to survive two months of lockdown, or six months.
How does an organisation update its business continuity plan for global pandemic? By working constructively and proactively towards a resilient and just society.
Sometimes I send work emails at 5:30 in the morning or 11:00 at night.
There are many reasons why I work odd hours and it’s not because I’m working long hours. I usually get to work around 9:15am and try to leave by 4:30pm. This allows me to:
Having done fewer than the standard hours in the office, I might do bits and pieces at night. For bigger tasks, I work best in the morning so that usually means getting up at 5am.
My first child will start school next year and I will be making even more use of this flexibility. I’m thankful Arup’s culture and technology enables it.
So the mystery is solved. Please don’t feel like you have to reply at 11pm or on the weekend. I hope your workplace supports you to work in the way you like.
What’s your preference? Safeguard your home life from work to get balance? Or weave them together?
Mia screeched, ‘Help! Mummy, help!’
‘Help what?’ I said.
‘Want to get those boxes over there!’ Mia was on her hands and knees, pointing deep under her bed.
‘Oh, I can’t reach, Mia. Only daddy can get those boxes. He has long arms. I have short arms.’
Hearing this, Mia sat back and was quiet. Then she shouted, ‘Mr Tickle!’
She jumped up and grabbed Mr Tickle from the top of her toybox. Then she threw herself under the bed, legs sticking out, and the sound of her straining to reach something.
Then I heard, ‘I did it! I did it!’ and two boxes were ejected out from under the bed.
Toddler Mia pointed up at a poster in the reception of the physiotherapist.
‘What’s she doing, mummy?’
‘She’s running, Mia,’ I said. ‘Running is healthy. People often run after they’ve done something unhealthy.’
Mia’s eyes widened and she gasped, ‘She ate chocolate!’
In this post-truth age, here’s a tactic to encourage parents to vaccinate their kids.
Now that the internet helps us find the evidence that best matches our beliefs, we look to our tribe to endorse our actions.
A toddler friend came to visit Mia and they took put every toy out of every container.
As it was a non-destructive form of entertainment, I let it run its course.
This is right outside my office. You’ve probably seen such markings on the ground before, although maybe not at this density. These markings show where services (electricity, gas, telecommunications) are.
Although there are written records of service locations, someone always has to check in person before any digging happens. This is called ‘ground truthing’.
It struck me that these markings could be beautiful and meaningful, reminding me of Aboriginal dot painting.
Buying cloth nappies is a complicated business. There are many different styles, different materials and brands. Prices vary from dirt cheap ($2 a nappy) through to insane ($50+ for a custom nappy. Yes, there are such things as custom nappies.).
The first time I bought cloth nappies, I spent around $14 a nappy. Unfortunately, these nappies started leaking regularly and falling apart. Within a few months, the retailer had sent some replacements that failed again. I’d say by the time Mia was a toddler, she was in cloth nappies half the time, disposables the other half, and we were doing a lot of laundry.
I have since found out that these nappies have a reputation. They are identical to the dirt cheap generic nappies, but someone has rebadged them and inflated the price. Really, I got the worst of all worlds. Cheap product, high price.
The experience undermined my ability to recommend cloth nappies to anyone. However, in my nappy research for Lana, I have learned that good quality nappies:
So here is the new nappy stash. These are handcrafted in Australia, made of bamboo and come in ‘everyday’ and ‘night’ versions. I paid around $25 per nappy, which is a very good price for a handcrafted nappy.
I hope to write more about the environmental and cost implications of using cloth nappies. The benefits of cloth over disposable are not clear cut (unless you buy renewable energy and use your nappies for more than one child). There is also a lot to be said about the cloth nappy community (yes, there is such a thing) and the clash of cloth nappy cultures (yes!! There is an ongoing war at the heart of the cloth nappy community).
Bottom line: Budget for around $18-30 a nappy. That’s how much a good quality nappy costs. It will save you a lot of heartache and laundry to buy nappies that don’t leak.
If that sounds too costly to you, have a think about the cost of disposables over the 2+ years that your children will be in nappies. Think about doing cloth nappies part time. Also, seriously consider buying second hand. The second hand cloth nappy market is huge on Facebook. If you want help linking up to the right groups in Australia, get in touch.