Home is wherever your heart is
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Alexis Charlesworth
Senior Executive Communications Leader, Roche Pharmaceuticals

Last year I went away once. It was a six-week holiday to my native Australia to connect with family and mark the end of my maternity leave. That was February 2020. We’ve never been back.

To say 2020 was a game changer is an understatement for many. So when the Australian borders closed due to COVID-19 and our flights home to Switzerland were cancelled, we thought we’d just stay with my in-laws another month or so, and go from there.

The months kept coming! So did a triple heart bypass and a cancer diagnosis. The signs were clear: the (grand)parents needed us, and we needed to be near them.

Just like that, our 10-year run in Europe had come to a close. At first I couldn't accept it. My life as I knew it no longer existed.

We had to pack our apartment and relocate remotely. Oh the emotions! The struggle of writing a household inventory from memory was real. My frustration mounted and my heart sank when our cargo container’s arrival date finally came … only to be told it wasn’t even loaded onto the ship!

Meanwhile, I had returned to work from maternity leave. I perched with my laptop in any quiet corner of my in-laws house where I could hide from a four-month-old baby and a toddler who always wanted 'Mum.' I was working day and night, finding time in the day to do my work and time at night to connect virtually with colleagues in Europe. All this while living under someone else's roof and wondering if I'd ever get home – or where home would be.

Initially, I was so stressed out by the juggle of it all, both mentally and emotionally, that I began to keep a timesheet. A little over the top? It was actually really helpful for me to recognise and accept that 9-to-5 working hours were no longer my reality, nor an expectation of my employer.

I realised I was breaking down the social construct of a work day from the traditional “consecutive hours contributed” to a more agile “impact achieved.” In doing so, I created more time for me to contribute both at work and at home.

Sure, my days can stretch from 5 am to 10 pm. Whose don’t as we enter year two of the pandemic in our new global normal, and especially for those with little ones at home?

Now, in the midst of an Australian summer, I’ve found my flow. I contribute to the company, and to my life companions, in interstitial shifts throughout those waking hours. I choose the times that best suit me, my family and the colleagues I collaborate with to make progress every day.

My journey home was not as simple as clicking my heels three times. I had to make a lot of adjustments and use my heart, my brain and my courage to build my own road and arrive fully present in the land of Oz.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our global headquarters from the other side of the world. I still miss inner-city European living and my Basel friends and colleagues, though I'm now physically and mentally at home at our very own hinterland hidden garden, where we are renovating a house on Australia's Sunshine Coast.

It’s true there’s no place like home; but it’s even more true that home is wherever your heart is.

Voices series
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