Hydro Tasmania's learning and development manager working from home at computer

Navigating COVID-19 as a mum working at home

20 May 2020

When Zoe started a new job amid a global pandemic, her workplace was nothing like the bustling open-space office she was expecting. Instead, her office was her home and her desk buddies her husband and two children. How Zoe navigated the complexities of working a brand new job and educating her children from home is admirable, to say the least.

Zoe Tracey page image


After two years working for a local energy retailer, Zoe returned to Hydro Tasmania as Learning and Development Manager. She was new to the role, but she wasn’t new to Hydro Tasmania. “I'm one of those boomerangs that come back,” says Zoe.


"Don't expect you'll get the same amount of work done as you did before. Be kind to yourself, find a routine that works and be prepared for it to change or be interrupted."


“When I applied for the role, we weren't in the middle of a pandemic. But by the time I started, everyone had already transitioned to working from home!”


On her first day in this strange new working world, all it took to set up was a call to the IT department. “My laptop, headset and office equipment were couriered to my house.” She logged in, browsed reading material and touched base with her team leader on Skype. “I set up one-on-ones to meet and greet the team. Most of my immediate team is based in Melbourne and I'm in Hobart, so the way we communicate would be online anyway. It all went really smoothly.” 


"We're more vulnerable. We're letting our colleagues into our homes. People are seeing us in our track pants and ugg boots (well, not really because that's under the desk). For me, I will feel quite strange when we do return to the office because this is my normal in this role."


Zoe has noticed some positives out of working from home, such as the focus on outcomes rather than hours at a desk. “It’s something we've been working towards and I've been thinking about for a long time. Our workforce is transitioning to measuring performance based on outcomes. I think everyone is learning a lot and we've adapted really quickly.


Businesses have realised they're capable of more than they thought. Like transitioning a full contact centre to work from home. Before the pandemic, businesses would never have thought that was possible. But they've done it and in a very short time.”


"Before, we would have come up with all these reasons why it wouldn't work. Now we're forced to do it, we've realised what's possible. I think that's amazing."


“The flexibility at Hydro Tasmania is great. Everyone's very understanding. We need it at the moment with all the responsibilities we're juggling. As everyone keeps saying, ‘we're all in this together’ and we really are – our children are in our meetings half the time.”


The biggest obstacle for Zoe has been her new ‘office environment’. “My husband is working from home with me. We're both on the phone a lot, especially my husband who works in a customer-facing role. We also have two young children, a six-year-old and a four-year-old. They are attending school three days a week and learning from home two days a week at the moment. That's been pretty challenging,” she says.


For many, working from home has reinforced the importance of family time. Zoe admits that, prior to the pandemic, busy weekday routines and work commitments would put pressure on family time. “We would get home quite late, the children would be in after-school care and my husband would arrive home later. We’d feed the kids and put them to bed, then the adults would have dinner,” Zoe says.


"Now we actually sit down and have dinner together every night. We didn't do that before. We've also been able to get out in the garden. That vegetable garden I've always loved but sadly neglected, it's actually happening now."


“There are absolutely some silver linings to this COVID-19 situation and all of us working and schooling from home. We spend more time together, have lunch together and walk around the neighbourhood. That’s unusual for us. We've enjoyed having more to do with their learning, trying to find ways to make it fun.”


Zoe admits it’s the first time in 15 years she has pulled her bike out of the shed. “We've been getting outside walking and riding around the neighbourhood. I've actually been riding my bike!” She also looked to the internet for inspiration. “We discovered YouTube videos and have been doing yoga in our lounge room, and the kids are enjoying Cosmic Kids yoga and PE with Joe.


2020 Career
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