The raging pandemic has pushed people beyond reasonable limits, and has adversely affected women disproportionately.
Balancing work and family has always been a challenge, but the pandemic has pushed people beyond reasonable limits, and adversely affected women disproportionately. Women often shoulder the burden of childcare and elderly care and have been in crisis this past year, struggling to take care of their families, their work responsibilities, and themselves. Since the pandemic has raged on well over the past year now, women have been forced to slow down and/or pause their careers, and/or leave the workplace in unprecedented numbers.
There are a number of actions companies can take to support working caregivers through the COVID crisis and beyond.
Working in a remote home/work environment is tough enough. If you are still requiring the “normal” rigidity of the 9-to-5 working schedule, women may be forced to choose between their jobs and their family’s well-being. Nowadays during regular business hours, women may need time to manage young ones and/or the elderly at home who are completely dependent and need their full attention, support their school-age kids through homeschooling and/or online classes, manage all the mealtimes and household duties which have increased tenfold since everyone is home, on top of regular work meetings, requirements and responsibilities.
True support requires formal policy changes and resetting expectations across the organization, supported by all levels of leadership, starting from the executive team down. Change needs to go beyond your company’s people managers, as using their discretion on a case-by-case basis may mean inconsistent approaches, applications and understanding. Some recommendations include:
Remote environments require even more communication for employees to feel there is clear, consistent and transparent communication/action and to avoid miscommunication/misinterpretation.
Also keep in mind that some nonparent and/or male employees may view additional support for working women and changes as unequal treatment. This is an opportunity to continue to elevate the conversation around the challenges of being a female, parent, and person of color. Be upfront and honest about the challenges of working women and clearly articulate their needs, and observe and address each individual’s situation, and care and understanding needed to best support.
As vaccines become more widely available and the world is redefining what work, society and the economy will look like, be prepared to shift and change. Policies are meant to be iterative, so keep observing, learning and adjusting to make sure yours are fit for purpose and meeting the needs of employees so your organization can thrive too.
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