Women have traditionally carried more of the mental load when it comes to their families. But the pandemic has acerbated that reality. Ask a mother what needs to happen this week in terms of the family and household operations, and they will rattle off a list in seconds flat. Chances are, dad, when asked a similar question, may struggle to remember a fraction of the family to-dos.
Is this added pressure behind the fact that more than 860,000 women dropped out of the labor force in September? According to the National Women’s Law Center, that number is four times that of men who have left. Department of Labor statistics show that the women dropping out are at an age where they are most likely to have young children. And one cannot ignore the fact that the drop off coincides with the return of children to school.
Forget Second Shift. It’s Simultaneous Shift. Thanks, COVID.
The second shift that traditionally began when women came home from the office is often a simultaneous shift during the pandemic. With most schools and workplaces functioning remotely, the female heads of household are likely juggling multiple stressors throughout their day:
Zoom meetings for all
professional responsibilities & deadlines
family wellness management
coordinating social calendars (socially distanced, of course)
And if there are aging or infirm family members, and perhaps pets at home, domestic responsibilities can overwhelm even the strongest, multi-tasking Wonder Woman.
While the latest generations of men have stepped up in sharing household responsibilities, studies continually show that no matter how enlightened male partners might be, women continue to bear most of the load.
Get to Know Each Mom on Your Team
Every mother on your team faces a unique set of circumstances. Whether she has a big family or small, children of different ages, with various levels of need, or other people at home who require support. Does she have a partner, or is she shouldering it alone? Like everything the pandemic has changed, managers now must develop a greater understanding of employees’ pressures to lead them better. Employee mental health and well-being is more important than ever.
Flexibility is Priceless & Rewarding
Whether your company is fully remote or requires some in-office time, keep in mind that many families face childcare obstacles or homeschooling challenges. Loosen up the rigidity around start and end times during the workday. Allow employees to determine when work will get done that fits into their COVID- induced chaos. Focus on deliverables getting met and not when they are being worked on. Consider whether someone truly needs to be physically present in the office, and what can be managed from home. Reward productivity with empathetic flexibility.
Make Video Free Days a Thing
Zoom fatigue is real. And for the moms on your team, sometimes getting everyone out of pajamas is a lower priority than getting everyone set up and logged on for the day – from the littlest to the biggest. If your team is working remotely, does everyone need to be on video when you meet? Take some of the pressure off by making video optional when appropriate.
Promote Clear & Non-negotiable Boundaries
Working from home can quickly begin to feel like living at work. Ask employees to block out times on their calendars when they are not available to work, be contacted, or respond. Honor those boundaries. Employees will take cues from their managers. Set the example with your schedule and respect your team in return.
Moms understand other moms and can offer authentic compassion and support like no other cohort. Set up a standing meetup for moms during the week where there’s no work talk allowed – just an opportunity to share mom-specific challenges, solutions, ideas, inspiration, wellness resources, and, most importantly, encouragement. Be open to ideas that arise from these conversations about how you might better support the moms on your team. Fostering culture and connection while employees are remote is key.
By allowing more grace and empathy with your mom employees, chances are you will see increased engagement, productivity, and loyalty. And that’s a COVID-inspired change we can all get behind. For more resources on managing during COVID-19, click here.