During 2020 RPV offered 20 days of Special Leave for parents of children affected by school lockdowns

Rail Projects Victoria

James has been at Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) for five years now. For five years, James has woken up early and got himself and two children ready for school whilst his wife leaves the house early to get to her nursing job at the Royal Children’s Hospital. James is out the door with his two children by 8:00am, he drops the kids at before school care and then commutes into the RPV office to be there by 9:00am.

In March that all changed. When RPV transitioned to working from home James recalled the advice of his father who had been self-employed and worked from home for most of his career, “structure is the most important thing”. With that advice James and his family adjusted to life in lockdown, making sure they still got up at a reasonable time in the morning and kept the routine of breakfast at a fixed time and got ready for the day. This allowed them time to take their dog for walk in the morning before they began their day of learning and working from home.

Given the difficult circumstances that parents were facing with learning from home, RPV offered 20 days of Special Leave which allowed parents to take 20 days of leave in whatever way that best suited their family and work needs. In the first lockdown James chose to use his leave by taking 2 half days a week, whilst his wife covered 2 other days and they juggled the Friday between them both to support their children learning from home. “The provision of having a flexible working arrangement for learning from home helped facilitate a far better environment in our household and allowed myself and my wife to concentrate on work when we were required to”. It allowed James to accommodate his children’s needs and still meet work targets.

During the second lockdown James extended this to 3 half days of special leave. James would sit at the kitchen table each morning with his children assisting them with their schooling, getting everything done by lunch time so James could then focus on work and his kids had free time. By the second lockdown James said the kids and the teachers had adapted and needed less input from him and his wife, but they recognised that being present and sitting with them was providing benefits in their learning.

James is surprised at how well the working from home transition has gone, the organisation and individuals have been able to adapt and the business has maintained its efficiency; barely skipping a beat. Of course, he misses the social contact of the office environment where you could lean over the desk and accomplish in 5 minutes what now requires having to book in a 30 minute meeting online. He also misses the incidentals, like standing in the elevator on the way to work and all those conversations you can have. But James has enjoyed the time he has had with his family. James said he got used to having everyone around the whole time and that was probably the most enjoyable part of this experience, spending lots of time with his kids.

James is looking forward to getting back into routine. “I genuinely like working in the city, putting on the suit, getting on the train, listening to music or reading a book, getting a coffee. I like the ritual and familiarity is what I’m looking forward to; getting back in there and seeing people we haven’t seen in a long time”.