Working parents have had it a degree higher than the rest of us in terms of the challenges that the pandemic threw at us. In addition to getting confined in the house throughout the lockdown, adjusting to remote work, working parents had to spearhead all aspects of their children’s lives too. With schools and other co-curricular activities that comprise a child’s major part of the day being closed for an indefinite amount of time; these responsibilities naturally fell on the parents.
Such overburdening did not only have a negative impact on their productivity at work, but also led to fatigue, burn-out and a general decline in happiness and the quality of life. The restrictions on movement and travel made it harder to step out for a change of space and clear the head. In many ways, the lockdown practically turned out to be a trap for working parents. Managing work and home had never been this challenging.
Coping with the challenge wasn’t easy, and over the past two years we have seen numerous examples of the lifestyle adjustments and compromises people made to keep it going through out the pandemic. These responses have not only been gendered to a great extent, but also relied on the position of the employee in the hierarchy of job roles. In order to keep the household running, while partners decided to quit or reduce their work timings, majority of the sacrifices were made by women. Over 80,000 women have been reported to have quit their jobs in the USA during the pandemic in a report by the National Women’s Law Centre. Statistics suggest that among working parents, 21% reduced their working hours, 16% quit their jobs and 6% had their partners reduce their hours or had them quit. The challenge was unsurmountable for third tier workforce whose job roles could not have shifted remotely and comprise the majority of the people who had to quit their jobs.
Most companies lacked the insight to assist and provide for those among their employees who had the added burden of looking after their kids. Employees too were hesitant in communicating these challenges to their management. In the process, companies have lost some valuable workforce as well as overall performance and employees have been left over-worked and under-satisfied. However, all is not lost and companies can still accommodate plans and policies that aid employees with kids.
Shift to outcome-based working: Providing some degree of flexibility can go a long way for those who have to constantly juggle different responsibilities. As long as employees deliver on their targets, giving them the freedom to draft their own working hours can improve performance and boost productivity.
Entertain different support programs: In an entrepreneurial world, every little hiccup in one’s way can be easily formulated into a start-up. Support programs like child assistance, prepared meals, outings and infotainment circles can take the unnecessary load off employees in a tightly packed schedules and improve their day significantly.
Equity over equality: While equality looks at every employee equally and provides the same resources to all, equity understands the background of every employee and accordingly treats them so that everyone is at the same footing. In an attempt to treat all employees equally, companies have missed out on providing assistance to those in need. It would be wise to adopt an equity-based approach for employees with differing needs.
Challenges are new and so should be the solutions to them. One of the greatest hindrances in the way of new unique solutions has been the “this is how it as always been” outlook that avoids anything new. It is important to give up this approach and to see things “as they should be”. This might make all the difference in the long run!