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A Day in the Life of Our Co-Founder WFH during COVID-19 – Meet Tim from ShieldGEO

As you may be aware, each month, we’ve been profiling one of our ShieldGEO employees to showcase how they structure their workdays. Throughout this series, we’ve learned about the many ways our team at Shield utilise our flexible work policy to create a balance between work and life that works for them. Some find working from home useful while others prefer to go to co-working spaces. Some break up their days to fit in school runs, while others work while travelling or studying. Some choose traditional work hours while others shift them to make use of their more productive hours earlier in the morning or later at night. 

That was at least until efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus forced us (to varying degrees) to just! stay! home! (Obviously excluding essential services like health care workers and grocery workers to whom we are eternally grateful for.) 

So, for this month’s edition of ‘a day in the life’, we’re profiling our co-founder Tim Burgess as he grapples with this new normal, WFH full time with his wife, Priya and two daughters Maya and Safina at home too. 

Meet Tim 

Tim started ShieldGEO with his business partner Duncan in 2015 after they realised a gap in the market while working with their clients in their previous startup Contractor Taxation. 

Tim Burgess, Co-founder of ShieldGEO

He’s tried working from home a few times before, but each time has found it challenging to sustain and has on multiple occasions stated that it simply isn’t for him.

“My productivity dropped. I’d drift. I’d be planning to do something, and then I’d do the easier thing, I’d search for something online, and an hour later I’d be looking at something totally different,” he says. 

So, when I asked him how he was feeling heading into another season of WFH (this time with a lot more restriction and an undetermined end date), he understandably replied with –” ‘nervous!”

‘Before Corona, we were talking about giving up the [Sydney] office because no one comes in [very often anymore],” he says. 

“I was saying, ‘what do you think? Should we give up the office?’ And I was hoping people would say, ‘no! We need the office, it’s great!’ Instead, they were like, ‘huh, maybe.’ And I was like — oh no!”

Admittedly, Tim had been WFH a little more regularly in recent times and finding it a little better as his role now includes a lot of meetings which act as deadlines throughout the day. It was also often broken up by other days in the office where he has always felt more productive. 

“But I’ve still had times where I’ve had a couple of hours where I haven’t got much done, and I haven’t felt good about it,” he says. 

“So I was very nervous about it, and then this situation happened where I didn’t have a choice.”

A new normal 

Tim lives in Sydney, Australia, where isolation measures have gradually increased over the past two weeks. Initially, Tim and his wife Priya worked at home while their kid’s school remained open but now (and for the foreseeable future) both Maya and Safina are set to be home as well. 

“Last week it was just Priya and I at home, the kids were at school and I actually kind of liked it,” Tim says. “It was just nice having someone else in the house.”  

Tim’s home office

Which Tim says helped with productivity. 

“This week — the kids are at home as well, and everything is different,” he says. 

“They don’t have any routine because school has not yet moved to online learning they’re just giving us stuff to print and asking us to get the kids to do it. And at the same time work is very intense right now.” 

But, Tim is hopeful this is just a time of adjustment. 

“I see huge potential here,” he says. “It’s really nice having them at home.”

Tim’s usual schedule was pretty rigid — working early in the morning before waking his kids up for school and dropping them off and heading into the office. He goes to the gym every day and is usually home by six for dinner and homework. A few days a week he takes late calls. 

“This week, I don’t have to take them to school, and they don’t come home at five from after school care they’re there all day,” he says which switches up his routine too. 

“It means even though I start work at the same time, I might work a bit longer in the morning because I don’t have to get them up and ready — I’m not going to rush them to get up if they want to get up at eight or nine that’s fine. And then in between meetings, you’ve got to go get them a snack, help them with the next thing, check their homework.”

A day in the life of Tim before and after isolation measures

  Two weeks ago Now
5:30ish Tiptoe out of bed, shower and get dressed Wake up, think about not checking the news. Find myself checking the news. Wish I hadn’t checked the news. Tiptoe out of bed, shower and get dressed
6:00 Catch up on email in my home office Catch up on email in my home office
6:15 Have a call with the US Have a call with the US
7:00 Wake my daughters (9 & 7) & fix their breakfast Catch up on slack and email
8:00 Make their lunchboxes Fix breakfast for my daughters
8:30 Walk up the hill to drop the kids at school Encourage the girls to get dressed and ready for “school”
9:00 Work on the train to the city Home schooling starts wading through Google Classroom to agree on the activities they will work on today
9:45 Arrive at WeWork Martin Place Open my laptop and try to find a simple task I can work on whilst monitoring their progress
10 Meetings Meetings
11:15 Go to the gym  Morning tea
12:15 Shower and 5 minutes of meditation Exercise with the kids
12:45 Back to work Lunch
1:00 Work Lunch and chores
2:00 Meetings Meetings
5:00 Work Exercise with the kids
5:30 Work on the train home Chores around the house
6:15 Dinner Eat dinner with the family
7:00 Homework, showers, etc Showers
8:00 Put the kids to bed  Put the kids to bed 
8:30 Two nights a week I work again until about 10:30. The other nights I read or watch something with my wife Four nights a week I work again until somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30. The other nights I read or watch something with my wife
10:30 I get ready for bed and read I get ready for bed and read
11:00 Sleep Sleep

And while productivity is pretty low at the moment, this is only two week into all of this.

“I think that’s one of the things that’s important right now is that we just give ourselves permission to just do the best we can — just whatever works,” Tim says. 

It’s a confusing and overwhelming time for everyone, and it isn’t just working from home as normal. 

“And it’s not just the fact that the kids are home or even that it’s the virus and the worries, those two things are very true, and they’re big big factors. But we also can’t go out. I can’t go to the gym, and that’s one of my main coping mechanisms — every day I go to the gym, and now I can’t do it, it’s a big shift,” Tim says. 

“There’s so much stuff that you can’t do. So that’s going to be one of the very difficult things moving forward. It’s not just about work, and it’s not just about managing that day time stuff. It’s also about trying to find ways to cope when your coping mechanisms are removed, or you have to change them.”

Tim’s schedule with his kids, which he mentions doesn’t last very long

But Tim’s hopeful that eventually there will be a new normal. 

Emulating some of the things that he’s lost helps. 

“Monday we did running races, Tuesday we did this obstacle course, Wednesday I think we did handball, Thursday we did gymnastics. So I think that’s going to be a good outlet for me,” he says. 

He’s also been having Zoom calls with his family and trying to limit the amount of time spent consuming news. 

“It’s just become even too much to actually follow,” he says. “There was a period of time where I was trying to keep in touch with it, but then it just became too much. So I think switching that off or severely limiting it is going to be a big help.”

As this continues, we’ll settle further and develop new routines. Ones that work for our circumstances. 

“I’m hoping I’ll restructure my calendar and move my meetings into fixed times and then push the kids into those times as well. Maybe they’ll do their maths while I’m on the phone to Ndulamo and then afterwards we can sync up as a family,” he says. “And then hopefully classes will start as well so they’ll be partially occupied by their friends and teachers.”

Most of all, Tim’s hoping to come at this whole thing with an attitude of gratefulness.

“Honestly, I was thinking the other day — my kids are nine and six, and they’re getting older, and I don’t get to hang out with them as much as I would like — what would it be like if I worked part-time? What would it be like if I did four days a week or three days a week? What would it be like if I did work from home?,” he says. 

“Now I’ve got that. Not in the way that I envisioned obviously. But I think that might be a big thing for me. That might be enough.”

– Bree Caggiati , April 2020

Want to know more about Tim? Visit his profile on Our Team page!

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