WORK LIFE BALANCE
The ongoing global pandemic has left life’s major institutions such as work, school, and family life all happening at home. The safety precaution has however come at the expense of many women’s mental health and wellness. According to Forbes, a Total Brain survey announced that 83% of women and 36% of men had experienced an increase in depressed moods due to COVID-19. 53% of working women and 29% of working men have experienced an increase in anxiety since February.
There are a variety of reasons why working women experience more depression and anxiety than men. One main reason may be that women are usually the primary caregivers of the family and the challenges COVID-19 has brought upon them cannot be overlooked. These include, the work at home arrangement, learning new technology, doing house chores and trying to maintain order with kids who are now doing online schoolwork, all while being stuck at home due to non-essential travel bans. These challenges are enough to cause stress and anxiety. In this article, we share some action points for employers, male partners and women to mitigate the negative effects caused by working at home.
What do employers need to understand about the challenges around work-life balance during the pandemic?
· The first thing employers need to do is adjust expectations of what productivity looks like during this time, especially for working moms. This can be done through canceling or deferring performance reviews, reducing work-load and making provision for flexibility in working hours.
· Employers need to prioritize their employees’ mental health wellness by creating mental health coaches or counselling services free of charge. This not only helps female employees to learn how to overcome the anxiety and stress caused by balancing the different roles, but also increases their productivity.
· Third, employers should arm managers to support their teams with a focus on working mothers, by leading with empathy and model vulnerability, openly sharing their own concerns and challenges and how they have overcome them.
What do Partners/spouses need to do?
· Since women do 11 times more household chores than men, men should take on a share of the load to relief their significant other. For example they could help with home schooling the children, assist in the kitchen, clean the house, and take care of any of the children’s daily activities.
· Be proactive and check in with their spouses. Men should look out for signs of distress in their partner and check in with them to see how they can help. Talk to your partner about how you can support each other in and out of the home. Creating schedules and sharing the burden of care is essential for equity between women and men. Share information and promote a positive environment at home.
What can women do to overcome anxiety and distress?
· Women can support each other by creating women support groups with workmates. This will allow them to share different experiences and challenges, and brainstorm on how to overcome them.
· Women may also share their experiences with mental health professionals such as therapists and counsellors who offer professional help on how to manage their challenges.
· Whereas keeping a job and satisfying their employers’ needs is an important part of their life, women should learn to prioritize their mental health by openly speaking to supervisors and employers about their challenges and making prepositions for work accommodations that support their well-being.
As people all over the world are trying to figure out how to protect and care for their families and finding they are stronger together, this time is an opportunity for us to collectively build stronger bonds with our families, neighbors and friends and create a more equitable society by supporting women, especially working mothers.