The science behind building flexibility for WFH moms.
Working from home (WFH) is a dream for some people and a nightmare for others. The remote work trend took off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s no surprise that more people than ever before WFH.
However, many remote workers would agree that WFH has its pros and cons, just as working in an office does. Remote work can be challenging for anyone, especially for mothers.
A key ingredient in a solid WFH routine is flexibility. However, moms typically have more responsibilities than employees without children. Is it possible for employers to give them more flexibility due to their circumstances?
Common challenges WFH employees experience
In a remote setting, you essentially have to be your own boss. This involves holding yourself accountable, completing your work, communicating with colleagues, joining virtual meetings, and managing your time effectively.
Some common remote work challenges include:
- Communicating and collaborating effectively with colleagues
- IT or technical challenges
- Achieving a healthy work-life balance
- Mental health issues, such as loneliness or isolation, burnout, and anxiety/depression
Many employers with a partial or fully remote workforce understand these challenges and offer employees potential solutions. For example, companies might leverage automation tools and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve work processes or provide telehealth services and stipends.
Combining full-time remote work with motherhood
When you think of a stay-at-home mom, you probably imagine spending your days doing household chores, shopping for groceries, tending to your pets, helping your kids with their homework, and running errands.
If you think about it, doesn’t that sound like a full-time job in and of itself? Most mothers agree that motherhood is a full-time job, whether or not you have a partner to help with parenting. Add a full-time WFH position to your schedule and you’re bound to feel overwhelmed.
If your children are young, you might have to help them get ready in the morning, feed them, pack their lunches and either send them to the bus stop or drive them to school. Some WFH moms choose to homeschool their children because of its inherent flexibility. In contrast, others might think homeschooling would add too much stress to their job arrangements.
Older children can handle some of these responsibilities, which does make it a bit easier on you. Suppose your typical morning is chaotic, but your boss expects you to join a call at 8:30 a.m. In this case, you might feel it’s impossible to help your kids and show up for work simultaneously. If your children are too young to go to school, how can you keep them occupied if you’re working?
Those challenges are only the tip of the iceberg. You know that work is essential, but taking care of your children is still a top priority. How can WFH moms strike a healthy balance between work and motherhood responsibilities?
Why flexibility is an essential element of any WFH arrangement
Research shows that 97% of employees believe the flexibility of their jobs positively impacts their quality of life and is one reason to stay longer with an employer. Flexible work arrangements are crucial in today’s business environment, particularly if companies want to retain talented workers.
The idea that mothers should be responsible for child care is becoming outdated. In a study from the Center for Global Development, women spent an extra 173 hours taking care of kids during the pandemic, compared to 59 hours for men.
The report suggests that women in low- and middle-income countries cared for children three times as many hours as their male counterparts. This is not to say men are uninterested in caring for children or lazy, but it highlights how much time mothers spend caring for their kids.
Some mothers might work a part-time job to handle childcare duties. Still, according to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), companies that predominantly hire mothers do not require less effort from them on the job. Compared to other workers, moms are not any more or less likely to WFH or have scheduling flexibility.
How moms can ask for flexibility at work
If you’re a full-time WFH mom, here are some tips that might help you ask your boss for some flexibility. They do not guarantee more flexibility, but they’ll get the conversation started with your superior.
- Ask your manager or boss to set up a brief meeting about your schedule.
- Be clear with your request. If you want a hybrid schedule, ask for one. If you think you’d benefit from fewer working hours, explain how it would help you achieve a work-life balance.
- Discuss the specifics of your schedule. Try to be honest with your boss and explain some challenges you face as a WFH mom.
- Show up to the meeting with research, notes, and potential solutions to your WFH issues.
- Be ready to negotiate and answer questions from your employer.
Having an open conversation with your boss might not be easy, but it could be a game-changer in your WFH routine. See where you and your supervisor can compromise so you can remain productive and create a healthy work-life balance.
Maintaining a work-life balance is critical for WFH moms
It might seem luxurious to work from home, especially for people who have trouble waking up in the morning. There’s no strict dress code to follow, no commute, and constant access to the kitchen. Some employees would feel lucky to have these arrangements. WFH moms know that remote work isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
Ultimately, WFH moms need flexibility in their routines. Perhaps your employer does not understand the demands of motherhood and a full-time job. In that case, consider applying for a different job or reducing the number of hours you work. There are many options in today’s environment.