If this is the new normal, then the new normal for work demands need to change. Working from home is one thing, one needs to practice time management, a daily structure, daily rhythm, and other strategies to help leverage productivity while staying well. Cool-i got this.
Plot twist: Throw in kids being home all day. Needing to be home-schooled. Needing attention. Needing you.
It's a complete shame that America is barely now realizing that parents who work are anxiety ridden, stressed, and whatever else that comes with leading a family and leading a career simultaneously. I fully believe there is a dichotomy of a working mother that is consistently at odds. Yes we can rehash the data and numbers on the statistics that prove why working mothers need support, but why beat a dead horse.
If this is to be our "new normal" working from home with children also at home and families co-existing in a living and workspace, then we need to re-define some of the expectations. Of course, we need to be fair to the employer because at the end of the day, there is still a business to run and outcomes to meet. So here we are having to please management and care for families. What's the compromise here?
Based on my experience during the last 4 months, it's been pandemonium and chaos.
So honestly, what can employers do to help alleviate the stressors of their employees with families, yet still yield results in this new normal?
Explore the option of split shifts if an employee is hourly, remove the ideology of 9-6 hours of work and expecting the 8 hours disbursed however suits the family so long as communications are made within standard business hours.
Video is not always necessary for virtual meetings. Sometimes it's more stressful making sure your child doesn't make an appearance on a call than allowing them to and getting all scary mommy on camera. Stop making it a requirement to show their faces.
Release the assumption that just because everyone is working from home that this is a luxury and that suddenly employees have "all the time in the world". If we've learned anything in this pandemic work from home situation, more items have been added to our plates and the concept of "leaving work at work or home at home" is dead. Adding more expectations in this environment is detrimental to employee productivity.
Exercise encouragement and clearly express understanding when the "standard hours" are no longer workable. Promote flexibility vs. rigidity.
Create a wellness program specifically for parents. Whether it's a relief fund for in home childcare, an extra 40 hours of kin care or better yet, INCLUDE kin care in your benefits PTO.
There's no easy fix, there's no overnight anecdote or remedy for parents and employers alike. All we can do is continue to make small steps in a victory we will achieve. The new normal needs to look different-if the structure of employment and working at home or back in the office and schools are now virtual, we need a foundational shift. One that benefits all.
Giana Vasconcellos, MPH, CHHS