Home became a workplace for thousands of PSA members during Level 4 lockdown.
Our online member survey showed almost two-thirds of the 95% of our members who kept working during lockdown, did so from their own homes.
But alongside work, many of you were also juggling the challenges of 24/7 parenting or other caring responsibilities.
“It was really difficult because being at home with kids is a full time job. Teaching them is a full-time job,” says PSA member and mother of two Anna Milne-Tavendale.
For the historian at Te Arawhiti, the Office of Māori Crown Relations, something had to give - and that was traditional schooling.
Anna says she was fortunate to have supportive management.
“They responded well to an unprecedented situation. There was no undue pressure on me to try to work the whole time. I was able to put me and my children first.”
She believes the better work life balance is beneficial for her and her daughters. Anna previously had a flexible arrangement working one day a week from home and is keen to work from home more often in the future.
Working from home posed fewer complications for Taupō District Council worker and PSA member Heather Holt.
The mother of adult children worked at home during the day, while her husband, a nightshift worker slept.
Heather’s job includes managing housing units for elderly residents. During the lockdown she kept in regular contact with them. “I would call them to see if they needed support.”
Working from home took “a bit of getting used to” for Heather, as she is used to bouncing off her co-workers. But her team kept in touch with daily video meetings.
“I was happy sitting at my dining table in the sun, working off my laptop.”
Heather says being able to work from home can be great when you need to focus, and her workplace is supportive of flexible work arrangements.
In the beginning working from home felt “absolutely crazy” for Canterbury Māori Health promoter Aaron Hapuku.
At home with his partner, two daughters and a new born, it took a few weeks to settle into new routines.
“Our two older tamariki would run in and out of the room while I was on phone calls and zoom meetings.”
During lockdown Aaron was redeployed to help with daily monitoring calls of people in isolation and quarantine.
“While I couldn’t engage kanohi ki te kanohi, it was nice to still be talking to people and helping them.”
Aaron was surprised by how productive he could be at home, and valued the time he saved by not having a two-hour daily commute. He says effective team leaders and email banter helped his team to keep in touch.
Aaron would like to continue working from home one day a week. He says the lockdown brought his family closer together.
“There are some routines such as family walks and shared kai that we will hold on to moving forward.”
While our survey showed the stresses of juggling work, parenting, and other responsibilities during lockdown were hugely challenging for some, your responses were overwhelmingly positive.
Seven out of 10 of those who worked from home were satisfied or very satisfied with their ability to focus for long periods of time, and think creatively and innovatively.
Just under 9 out of 10 were satisfied or very satisfied with their ability to contact colleagues when necessary.
Only 27% believed working from home led to reduced cooperation between colleagues, or made it harder to be motivated.
PSA national secretary Kerry Davies says while working from home in a pandemic is a little different, hopefully more people now realise it is feasible and can make a huge difference for workers.
“The lockdown gave many of us a chance to reflect on what we need. We want the choice to work from home sometimes so we can get work done, reduce carbon emissions, support local communities and make juggling work and family responsibilities just a bit easier.”
While the Prime Minister advised public service workers to return to workplaces when we reached Level 1, she also acknowledged the separate process underway to refresh flexible work policies.
All public service agencies are aiming to offer flexible work by default by the end of the year. It is intended to be available for all roles unless there is a good “business” reason for it not to be.
“The PSA led the charge on flexible work by default. By making it a choice for all, men and women, it will become the new normal,” says Kerry.
“It won’t be a hindrance to your pay or career progression as it has in the past, which will help close the gender pay gap.”
Flexible work by default is one of the goals of the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan agreed by Government, public service chief executives and the PSA.
Watch out for guidance at www.ssc.govt.nz/our-work/the-gender-pay-gap-and-pay-equity/