The lockdown had been extended for the third time. While memes on social media celebrated the latest version named Lockdown 3.0, Nisha’s mind was racing fast. As she juggled between two demanding roles, that of a mother of a six-year-old-hyperactive boy and working remotely as a Senior IT Analyst with an MNC, the lockdown had imposed additional responsibilities on Nisha as her maid was homebound. For more than a month now, Nisha had been working twelve hours each day before she hit the sack, worn out and exhausted. Her daily routine included cooking, cleaning, programming, helping her son with his assignments, while also attending to all sorts of calls (from client calls, team conference meetings, trainings to cope with lockdown woes to concerned family members and happy cousins who wanted to share their experiences on their latest culinary experiments). Her husband kept reminding her of his constant support, but seemed to unconsciously wait for her to spell out the chores for him each day.

Since the lockdown, Nisha’s daily routines had gone for a toss. The words work-out, books, blogs, Netflix were out of her dictionary. From half hour of reading the newspaper pre-lockdown, she had cut down to glancing through the headlines post-lockdown. The previous day’s training on self-realization and setting out one’s priorities in life were ringing in her mind throughout the day. That night, soon after Nisha put her son to sleep, she called her HR friend. Nisha told her friend that she couldn’t take the stress anymore, and wanted to quit.

Her friend’s advice was crisp and sounded sensible, “Don’t take any hasty decisions, these are tough times for all of us. Let alone your finances, did you think about how this would impact your career? I dont think its prudent to quit a well-established career at this juncture, when the future is so uncertain. This lockdown is a temporary thing, which everyone is struggling to cope with. I suggest you talk to your manager. Before that, make a list of what exactly are your problems and if there is any alternate realistic solution.”

Nisha decided to do just what her friend had advised. She pulled out her note pad and made a list:

“My son feels I am not spending enough time with him, like his friend’s mother does. I sometimes end up venting my frustration on him. ”

“My manager mailed me pointing that I seemed disinterested and pre-occupied during the recent client calls.”

“I feel I’m not doing my best, both at home and at work.” And the list went on.

Next day, she spoke to her manager about her concerns for about two hours. She was surprised that her manager listened patiently and had so many positive comments and feedback about how well she performed, even while working remotely. Apart from restoring her self confidence, he kept re-emphasizing that this pandemic has evolved into something nobody had predicted; and hence most of them had been caught off-guard. After further discussions, they came to the conclusion that what she needed was some flexibility in her work for a couple of months, till her son’s school resumed or she arranged a reliable support system at home. The manager concluded that he would discuss with the HR and offer a mutually-acceptable solution.

Today Nisha works four hours a day, and is a much happier mother and employee, who will most likely turn out to be a loyal long-timer in her organization. Nisha is an epitome of what many young working parents are going through at this juncture, but I am not sure how many organizations have reacted with empathy and prompt solutions. During such times of crisis, humanity and compassion is as much a key word in employee wellbeing, as it is in all other perspectives. It goes without saying that such gestures go a long way in creating and maintaining loyalty among talented and deserving employees. Retaining key talent by understanding and addressing their concerns is both challenging and crucial, as the future of work continues to evolve at an unpredicted pace.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about the need for flexible practises at the workplace to accomodate the needs of key talent.