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The context and background Since the pandemic started in the UK, I've been work from home. On top of that I'm a single parent and my teens are off school because the schools have shut.

At the start of the lock-down, the first two weeks were ok(ish) as I was trying to build a sensible routine for me and the children.

The issue that has come about is that I've become overloaded with project work as more and more gets directed to me by various silo'd project managers. Each one of these projects is horrendously complex.

  1. A K8s infrastructure comprising five separate environments.
  2. Decomposing a sprawling under-performing monolith into microservices
  3. An Enterprise wide EFK platform
  4. A CI/CD platform for build. test, deploy of polyglot microservices
  5. Dragged into other projects in an advisory capacity (I have a reputation for turning around under performing difficult projects).

Before lock-down I had the time to manage workloads like this, because the children(teens) were at school at 8am, and were capable(ish) of looking after themselves until I got home.

Now managing the overload of work,drive-by questions and squabbles from co-workers and the overload of home schooling,drive-by questions from the children(teens) and squabbles, has made me become under-productive, I'me suffering badly from writers block for analysis reports to upper echelons. Coding block for the development work I have to do. My team and scrum management is OK though, I'm still able to effectively make decisions and allocate sensible workloads for my team and do the appropriate liaison and contact work for them - point them in the direction of people who can answer their questions if I can't.

On top of all this my diabetes has come back with a vengeance, previously I was in diabetic remission,but now I have numb and cold extremities,tiredness and thirst. The earliest my GP can see me for this is October because of the current situation ( do continue to push on this though).

The final aspect is that there is a concern that my drop in productivity will result in organisational changes (which are already underway throughout the enterprise), where I'm re-org'd out because I've under-performed during this difficult time.

Ancillary information I live and work in the UK (England) in Enterprise Financial Services (Insurance/Assurance).

The Question With the background and context in mind, what would be a good strategy to create an operational plan where-by I can better manage the current situation and tactically what would be the best starting point to put this into action.

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  • Can you document that you are getting more workload than usual? What does your line manager say about prioritisation of tasks? – Captain Emacs Apr 25 '20 at 15:28
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    What exactly stops you from giving people a hard NO on their requests? This includes your children. Even without all this current stuff, if you get too much work, you have to push back. Is the old strategy no longer working? – nvoigt Apr 25 '20 at 15:29
  • @Captain Emacs Unfortunately, poor line management, that says yes to everything coming down, who only took back a chunk of work he delegated to me because it was a success. – Ourjamie Apr 25 '20 at 17:13
  • @nvoigt As yet is hasn't been hard no's because I was able to properly schedule work, until 10days ago when I became swamped and my diabetes took a turn for the worse. None of the old stretegies are working because of the new situation I've found myself in. More Work, more meetings, more eComms (slack, yammer,teams, skype, zoom). So more work management Then there is school work on top of that, two kids separated by three years. and more household management. – Ourjamie Apr 25 '20 at 17:19
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    @nvoigt, I've just realised my workplace strategy, thanks to your comment. I have two "weak" line managers between myself and the C's and PMO. At my desk I was able to overhear and/or intercept requests to them, for me and other team members and be able to "recommend"/"guide" workloads, schedules and allocations. Now I get zero sight of anything being sent to them before getting the requests to switch from one thing to another or plan something entirely new. – Ourjamie Apr 25 '20 at 17:29
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I'm not a parent, so take this with a grain of salt. It seems to me like you should start with your kids. Because you have direct control and no other parties involved. They need to respect that you are not available while at work. You need to make that a clear rule. Set boundaries, mentally and physically. Have a door you can close or at least some kind of visual aid that you are at work.

My dad used to partly "work from home", although it was never called that back in the day. He visited a bunch of businesses all over the state during the day and in the afternoon he would be home and plan the next day and fill out all the paperwork. That might be a minute or two on two connected Google Apps today, but back then it was real work on a desk with maps and a calculator for hours. It was always clear that when dad is home and the door is closed, there is no running, no screaming, no playing with toys in front of the door and certainly no opening the door. That was a clear and simple rule and was valid for everyone. My mom would not do that either, she would vacuum another time or ask the question later. Make sure you have simple rules, the same for everyone. Enforce them like you enforce all rules with your kids.

I have no idea how home schooling looks like in your country. But you need to focus. So if you need time for that, set aside time in a structured manner. Lets say you need 2 hours a day, then make it a pattern. Every day from 8:30 to 10:30. Or whatever fits your schedule. So everybody can focus on the one thing that is important and everybody can be prepared. If your home schooling starts at 8:30 every morning, your kids should sit at the table with books out at 08:29:59. Again, keep it simple and keep it easy. This rule is for everybody in the house. No exceptions. Nobody is allowed to ask where the coffee filters are between 08:30 and 10:30. If they don't know they have to wait. Simple rules, enforce them like you enforce all rules with your kids.

As far as work goes, you need to give realistic feedback. If you need to home school your kids, you cannot work as many hours as before. That's just a reality. Days do not have 26 hours during a pandemic. You can communicate this reality, that will make you look like a responsible parent, or you can try to hide that reality, in which case you look like a lazy slob that doesn't get her work done for no reason. Maybe you can switch to part time, maybe not, but you need to tell your bosses that you cannot meet their deadlines. And you need to communicate that early on. Whether the business gets that their middle managers aren't good at their jobs is hard to say. In reality they will likely grumble a bit and either get less work done or hire a temp or hire full time. The point here too is to communicate simple but effective. Tell them that you will not be able to complete that. Because then the ball is in their court and they can react. That's a managers job. But if you just say nothing and are late on projects, there is nothing a manager could do about that and then it is indeed your fault.

So to sum it up: whether it's you bosses or your kids or whoever else lives with you, you need to set simple but effective rules with no exceptions. Don't let anyone get by with excuses, not the kids, not your boss and not yourself.


Unrelated advice you did not ask for: you can learn a lot by teaching. Because when studying something you only need to know the right answer, but if you want to teach someone else, you will need to know why that is the right answer and you will be confronted and forced to think about questions you yourself maybe never had. If you make your older one teach the younger one, it might seem like the older does not learn anything, just repeating their own old lessons, but I bet you they will both profit from it. That does not replace your home schooling, but could be a very good addition.

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  • thank you for that, I think it's help me come to a form of an answer. Having to supervise two children with different curriculum's, has highlighted my own lack of supervision and direction. The kids are good at not interrupting me during the four or five meetings I have to attend during the day. But then once a meetings over I have to check that they're doing what they are supposed to and not squabbling, gaming, chatting or youtubing. The issue is is that rules need to be policed with adequate supervision and management as there is no-one else at home to help. – Ourjamie Apr 27 '20 at 6:09

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