Is work-life balance turning out to be an uphill task for women since the onset of the pandemic? Do women prefer working from home 24/7? Does a career woman find herself torn between maintaining the balance between the two? Let’s try and find out all these answers by looking at some of the challenges working women face in a remote environment.
The Major Challenges Faced by Working Women
Let’s take a look at some of the major challenges a working woman faces as she tries to balance both her work and family responsibilities!
Women may find it hard to define boundaries while working from home due to the constant pressure of trying to do their best in both worlds. With the economy becoming a remote-based one, the stakes of divided attention are higher than ever as far as female employees are concerned.
While earlier they could do their household chores and then leave for official duties, the scene has changed with working women having to focus on meeting official requirements also together with household chores.
While some say that women are experts at multitasking, the real question is how effective is this? Multi-tasking is something women, especially working moms do out of necessity, not because they are experts. Due to the pressure of remote working, women tend to switch quickly between tasks as a means of coping or completing all required tasks. This may lead to low productivity and if left unattended, may also result in failure to achieve the set targets.
With greater flexibility in getting things done at home, working moms tend to take a back step for the family. They feel compelled to give up on their plans to advance into senior roles for the convenience of family members. Their attention is divided and the drive to stay connected to the corporate world and happenings, may suffer dilution. As a result, their corporate circles grow smaller, keeping them out of major discussions and promotions.
Being seen or being present at the office becomes less easy while women opt for staying behind. They become the unseen employees who are branded more as family caregivers than office tycoons. This creates unwanted bias and gender discrimination.
A woman’s career graph can be affected when she fails to get the deserved recognition. The employees who work physically in the office get considered more for such rewards women who opt to stay at home do not get as much recognition.
While at the office, there is a schedule that gives a specific time to log in and log out, remote working requires employees to be present at all times. So working hours extend and this leaves very little space for recreational activities. Working women are more likely to fall into depression considering the extra hours they put in at home after office requirements. Without a proper support system, remote working which is meant to give working moms control over their time leaves them in a compromised state.
There is a high risk of exhaustion as working moms struggle to juggle their work along with household chores. Attending a zoom meeting while managing the family needs keeps them less focused. Likewise, attending to the family while work calls are due to begin also tends to throw them out of balance. As a result, female employees may find it tough to give their hundred per cent in either scenario. They may feel unappreciated at home as well as in the workplace, even when they are performing well.
Feelings Of Isolation
Women are likely to suffer emotional burnouts from being exhausted all the time. They spend their days rushing from chores to office assignments, leaving them feeling drained. The toll of being present in two places at the same time is likely to affect their emotional well-being. Many women state they could be happier when they have some me-time.
Feelings of isolation may arise as they no longer commute for official duties in the corporate settings. The absence of brainstorming sessions, group discussions and even occasional coffee breaks with teammates are factors that working moms enjoyed in a physical office environment. They try to spend time on entertainment at home to overcome such difficulties
In an interview given at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive director of U.N. Women rightly said.- “There is a danger there that women are the ones who are likely to opt to work from home, and offices may just end up being the places where men go to,” said
She truly speaks for all working women when she says: – “We worked so hard to say a woman’s place is not in the kitchen. We don’t want corona to say a woman’s place is in the home, that she’s sitting in the kitchen with her laptop, and the man’s place is in the office,” she said in a recent interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Recently a women’s rights forum LeanIn.Org in collaboration with McKinsey & Company had conducted a survey that gave alarming evidence that during the pandemic, women have had to be three times more responsible than their male counterparts when it came to dealing with childcare and housework.
Estimates suggest that 70% of the female population are mainly responsible for all the duties at home, while childcare rests primarily on the shoulders of 66% of them. As per a report from ILO (International Labour Organization), women perform over 75% of unpaid domestic activities at home. Experts also say that women, especially working moms carry the major bulk of responsibilities at home.
Taking into consideration these facts, it is not surprising that women are facing concerns about maintaining a healthy work-life balance in this era of remote working.
The words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres deserve applause-“Gender equality and women’s rights are essential to getting through this pandemic together, to recovering faster, and to building a better future for everyone.” -he states.
Every organisation should take measures for gender inclusivity. There should be a fair evaluation of the employees working from home, regardless of gender. The basics of performance evaluation should be revised and the results /outcomes of quality work have to be focussed upon.
A routine or schedule to stick to, exclusive office space and measures to prioritise the task at hand will enhance productivity. Taking steps to ensure mental well-being is equally important. With a conscious mind to maintain boundaries, women will be more at ease when they take support from all available resources. A rested mind is the main key to creating a positive work-life balance.