More and more companies are committed to supporting their employees in working from home due to the pandemic and stay at home orders. This comes as a relief to parents with small children at home but it also brings new challenges to the workday. HeyMama and InHerSight conducted a study of 1,000 moms to discover the policies, resources, and support working mothers need from their employers, coworkers, and partners during the COVID-19 crisis as work from home policies continue.
Women are finding themselves working more, feeling less productive and are less satisfied with their jobs. While past studies have shown that remote employees are more productive than those who work in the office, it did not account for mothers homeschooling their children while keeping up with deadlines and other duties.
The typical rules and results of working from home do not apply under these circumstances, so it is important for employers to consider how the pandemic is affecting their employees and reassess the expectations they have.
The survey found that almost three in five working moms say they are less productive while working from home during COVID-19, yet two in five say they are doing more work. Additionally, nearly half of women who took our survey say they’re less satisfied with their jobs since working from home and taking care of children at the same time.
There is no denying that taking care of your children, along with having to educate and entertain them, is a full time job. Pair that with working from home and both will suffer. Moms working from home need more flexibility in both work hours and deadlines.
“Flexibility has always been really important to women in general and moms specifically, as they try to balance work and life and make the best decisions for their families,” Ursula Mead, CEO and cofounder of InHerSight, says. “Throw in a pandemic and a lot of our day-to-day needs from regular, non-stressful times become that much more acute and critical.”According to our survey-takers, flexible work hours due to other demands on time and extended/flexible deadlines are the top two considerations they need from their employers.
If quarantine and social restrictions continue for the foreseeable future, working moms say flexible work hours are still a priority followed by paid time off and extended/flexible deadlines for work.
“Flexibility can take a lot of different forms. It can be flexible work hours, deadlines, projects/assignments, or ways to use benefits and capital, and understanding the type of flexibility moms need as they work from home and during the pandemic,” Mead says.“Remember too that identifying your employees’ needs and supporting them is good for your business and your team’s morale and productivity.”
Working moms also need their coworkers to understand that they have a lot on their plates right now.
“While the current pandemic has been difficult for everyone, and people who cannot or choose not to have children are facing a slew of challenges, parents—seemingly overnight—became de facto teachers, helping their children navigate e-learning while simultaneously working, caring for any young children they may have, and taking care of their homes,” Katya Libin, CEO and cofounder of HeyMama, says. “Fifty-seven percent of mothers say COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health. While most parents cannot understand what it must be like to spend months on end devoid of any human contact—a reality for many single people who’ve been sheltering in place—those without children cannot fully understand what it’s like to lack any personal space or even a moment of solitude during lockdown, either.”
Mothers who are also business owners need their employees to anticipate needs and be proactive in helping out in order to keep the business up and running.
“This is a large ask, especially if their employees are, like these business owners, parents,” Libin says. “Prior to COVID-19, 70 percent of mothers with children under 18 did paid work, and moms made up 47 percent of the workforce. In a country that has failed to provide mandatory paid leave, affordable health care, and ensure equal pay for equal work, asking employees to anticipate and preemptively react to the needs of their employer feels like a large request. But this need also speaks to the ways in which mothers who own businesses are not adequately supported. While it would undoubtedly be beneficial for these business owners to have employees who can read their minds, what entrepreneurial moms really need are systemic support systems at the local, state, and federal level. And, of course, another crucial part of any mom’s support system is her network of other moms—her community. Having access to other women in similar situations and stages of both life and career to lean on and turn to for advice cannot be underestimated.”
In general, women take on the bulk of child care duties. This is true even in households where both partners do paid work. 23 percent of working mothers want more help from their partners regarding child care.
Mead says that for some women, this experience could be a wake-up call, “If they had an inkling that the distribution of work was ‘off’ or uneven in some way, working from home while juggling caring for the kids is likely going to be a reality check as women come to terms with the hard truth that the distribution of work at home is still far from equal.”
“[The balance of unpaid work] hasn’t changed in so many decades…or centuries even,” Mead says. “I think women don’t know how to make it change. The resources out there to get from the current distribution of work to a better place just don’t exist or aren’t meeting women and their partners where it’s helpful.”
Every working mother has different needs. The best way to know what types of support you can offer is by asking and listening.