27 Oct 2020

`Soon after lockdown began, colleagues and friends started to tell each other stories of their different experiences. The young professional living with four others in a house – all making a worktop out of the kitchen table. The parents responsible for running a team, now alongside their children’s education. The person who decided to buy a puppy as soon we were no longer allowed to leave our houses more than once a day.

We caught up with people across the company to let them tell us some of their amazing stories of how they felt about lockdown, and what flexible working at Hanover has enabled them to achieve.

Emma’s story:

I have heard people say that they have seen a whole new side to their partner during the Covid-19 lockdown. Spending more time together than they probably ever have, they are discovering that partners can cook, are actively cleaning and taking care of more domestic chores.

This is not my experience. Having lived with my husband for 15 years, I have discovered that we already seem to know most things about each other. Sure, there are things we have re-discovered but nothing has come as a surprise. We have carved out clear roles for ourselves over the years and we have our comfort zones.

When we first heard that school was closing – at that time for four weeks – my family had mixed reactions. I was determined that we would make the most of it. We put together a daily plan pretty early on: my husband and son like to know what is going to happen. My daughter and I are the opposite. We like to be spontaneous and we like every day to be different, new, surprising. We like the rollercoaster of life. This was clear from WFH Day 1, as plans went into freefall. My daughter announced that she had already completed all of her work over the weekend. Without telling any of us. What to do now without resorting to Netflix?

Working at Hanover provides the excitement and variety that I crave. No two days are ever the same. The day never goes the way I plan it. Ever. That hasn’t changed. It has probably become more acute. Our team is not unusual at having been asked to do many short-term, intense projects during the pandemic. Hanover recognises this and we been given all the support we need to make these a success.

My life as a working parent has changed significantly during lockdown. I no longer need to travel to meetings and conferences and so I am at home for bedtime every day. Hanover actively encourages flexible working hours and so I am able to have breakfast, lunch and dinner nearly every day with my family. We have also been provided with all the tools we need to work from home – for the first time I have a proper home office set up.

I read a statistic recently that before this pandemic, nearly 50% of companies banned working from home. My husband and I took a decision early in our parenthood that we would not employ a nanny – forcing us to leave work to get the kids from school and having dinner with them. Without the flexibility that Hanover encourages, that just would not be possible. We live in Belgium, with no family to help out.

After lockdown in Belgium ends, I will look back on what has been good about this enforced time at home. I will miss the daily 07:00 park walk with my kids. We have discovered so much more wildlife than we could ever have thought was there. We have watched the ducklings and the goslings be born and grow up – soon to fly to a new home. We know our neighbours much better than we did before, thanks to the daily clapping in support of essential workers. We know about the lives of the people who run the delicatessen at the end of the road and who have managed to stay open throughout, sustaining us with daily treats.

Most of all when I look back, I am pleased that my family has come through this, with love and laughter and a lot of patience!

A drawing of Emma working from home, by her daughter.

Emma is the Senior Director of International Policy and Market Access within Hanover’s Brussels office.