Adrienne Herbert: “I’ve definitely dropped the ball”

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  • Feeling uncertain about the future of work? You’re not alone. We spoke to trainer and author Adrienne Herbert AKA Adrienne LDN about her own experience navigating the changing working landscape and why it's OK to drop the ball sometimes...

    As a trainer, TED speaker, author and mother, Adrienne Herbert – AKA @AdrienneLDN – has long championed the benefits of flexible and remote working. But the pandemic has thrown millions of us into unprecedented (yep, there’s that word again) situations as we try to juggle our home and personal lives in increasingly challenging ways, and for many the reality can feel impossible. Here, Adrienne fills us in on what she’s learned over the past few months…

    Separating work from home is key

    “In my experience, trying to do everything from one space just doesn’t work for anyone. Identify ‘this is the place I work’ or ‘this is the space we cook in’. Don’t have your laptop in bed or bring it into the bedroom or garden, for example. If you’re lucky enough to have an office space and a desk, keep work to that specific place and just use areas like the kitchen or garden for downtime. Doing everything under one roof has its challenges, so try and establish where work goes and really stick to it.”

    …So is being creative with space

    “It might sound silly, but be creative with what you’ve got in your house – we’ve made a den in the garden and moved stuff around inside. Trying to reinvent those familiar spaces in a new way is really helpful when you’re spending so much time at home. For example, our dining table was the other way around and we’ve moved it so we can open the doors because it’s been hot to go into the garden. Being creative at home can make a space feel new, and more useful.”

    Establish boundaries with people around you

    “I’m a big morning person – I get up very early every day, like 5.30am – it’s revolutionised my life having more time in the mornings. But I go to bed earlier because of it. And I think there’s this idea because of technology that people can contact you 24 hours a day and it’s quite debilitating, that feeling of obligation. So manage expectations – I always say to people, ‘If you email or Whatsapp me in the evening, you’re probably not going to get a reply until the morning’. Letting people know what they can expect from you frees you to a degree from that emotional pressure that can build up, where you feel you have to get back to everybody.”

    Getting to grips with tech is crucial

    “Obviously in terms of no school for my son since March, that’s definitely been a challenge. I think initially it was the novelty of like, ‘Oh he’s at home and we can do all these fun things together’ but the reality is they want to be with friends. He has an active social life and usually would have athletics club, football clubs, after-school clubs. So one of the biggest challenges I found personally was keeping him connected with friends and navigating that technology with him. I basically had to get up to speed with it all in order to facilitate that.”

    …But think about what you’re using

    “I wanted to encourage my son to be online and to connect with friends He likes to create little videos – he’s been documenting the summer through his eyes and filming things like the neighbours clapping for the NHS, for example. I don’t want to demonise tech – there is so much good out there in terms of creativity, innovation and connections. The more I can upskill him – and myself – the better. When I think back to when I was nine, as one of four children with a single mother who was very busy, we watched movies like Spiceworld on repeat. It wasn’t educational, there was no screen time limit. So I think it’s finding a balance and ensuring it’s interactive and educational.”

    Accept the guilt, it’s inevitable

    “Because I’ve worked from home quite a lot in my life, the actual setup of working from home was kind of OK for me. It was more having Jude [Adrienne’s son] off school and him being an only child. I guess I was feeling the ‘mum guilt’ of thinking every day should be fun all day and we’d be doing activities. But you can’t, it’s not realistic. You cannot do that seven days a week if you’re working. But then I realised, I’m actually showing him a good example, so he sees I’m recording a podcast one day, writing my book the next day. And obviously we have time where it’s focused on him like schoolwork, playtime or cooking. But the reality is that I have to work so we are able to do all of these other things, and I think letting go of that guilt and accepting things aren’t going to be perfect 24/7 is a big part.”

    Be flexible with loved ones

    “My husband and I haven’t really had to speak about sharing the domestic load, we’ve always been very 50/50. So from my perspective, it’s never been a case of ‘Oh well done! The dad did something!’ because we’re both adults and we both work. I know that’s probably not the case for everyone but even then, it’s not perfect. For example on Monday, I had to go to the supermarket at 6.45am because I was like, ‘We’ve got a really busy day, neither of us are going to get any other chance to go’. Sometimes things don’t always fit into your schedule so you have to be flexible with it, too.”

    Accept you can’t get it right every time

    “I’ve definitely had moments where I think, ‘OK, I’ve got a call at two o’clock’ and then fast-forward to 2.15pm and you’re outside thinking, ‘How am I late for that?!’. Yeah, I’ve definitely dropped the ball. But there’s so many things going on right now in the world in terms of our emotional capacity and we have to think longer term as well – like how is this going to impact us moving forward? There are so many unknowns and uncontrollables right now, which in itself is challenging. So do the best with what you’ve set out to do, but know it might not always go 100% to plan and that’s OK.”

    Adrienne is involved with Google’s Summer of Little Wins campaign to help parents look after their families’ digital wellbeing over the summer holidays. Follow #SummerOfLittleWins on Instagram.

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