Family commitments, lack of support, travel-related challenges, and inability to keep up with technology changes have daunted working moms across APAC, as per LinkedIn Opportunity Index 2020.
Now in the new remote working scenario it brings in more challenges for them as they try to balance work-life in the physical space of home. Working mothers have suddenly found themselves trying to finish complex work tasks, home-schooling their children, and fulfilling house responsibilities - all at once. Although men have nearly tripled the amount of time they spend on child care since 1965 and the number of men who are stay-at-home fathers has doubled in the past 20 years, imbalances persist in what has been called the “invisible work” of parenting.
To help working mothers cope through these challenges, employers across the globe have come up with various solutions. Some have introduced flexi hours for not only working mothers but fathers too, exclusive apps and assistance with home-schooling has also emerged as a trend.
For organizations, their employees productivity and well-being is of paramount importance at this time of crisis. And to support them in these tough times a lot of progressive organizations have stepped up and introduced innovative ways to help them manage work-life balance while working remotely. Here are some ways in which organizations are helping working mothers and working parents:
Giving working parents their space: Introducing flexible timelines
Leaders at IPM India ensure that there is enough flexibility for working mothers and they are sensitive in not scheduling calls or collaboration work before 10am, between 1-3pm and after 7pm to enable them to work from home and work for home without stress.
Giving working parents the flexibility to decide the convenient working hours for them will help them better manage work and balance their time.
Some of the other flexible work arrangements that employers could explore include teleworking, compressing the work week or ensuring protected long-term leave. UNICEF also suggests support measures like employment protection, paid sick leave and economic transfers like child benefits and subsidies for health expenditures for working parents.
The Singapore government has taken similar measures. In a letter Then Yee Thoong, Divisional Director, Labour Relations and Workplaces Division, Ministry of Manpower wrote, "In view of the upcoming Jobs Support Scheme pay-outs, employers are strongly encouraged to provide additional paid leave to these working parents. Employers should also allow these working parents to tap on their childcare or annual leave entitlements."
Microsoft introduced paid pandemic school and childcare closure leave to give working parents greater flexibility and time off as they face extended school closures. Similarly, Google employees can go on leave without any deductions from their standard paid leave allowance. Those on a half-day work schedule, meanwhile, can make use of their leave credits for up to 28 weeks.
Helping working mothers de-stress and organize their days through tech
Nishid Sachdeva, Vice President Operations and Country Lead for Optum Global Solutions, India shared, "New programs like FITWELL, PLANWELL, RAISEWELL and FIT WELL VIRTUAL have been introduced to help working mothers de-stress, organize their days, indulge in peer to peer learning, and engage with family and colleagues."
These programs include virtual sessions on mental health, meditation, healthy eating and nutrition, parenting, family and relationships, engaging kids while working from home, tax and financial planning etc.
"COVID-19 is affecting people across India and for working parents the experience has been overwhelming and exhausting. During such a time, our LIVE WELL App offers various tools through which an employee can seek to maintain healthy social and mental well-being," shares Priti Singh, Senior Vice President, Human Resources Business Partner, South Asia Mastercard.
The app offers activities such as virtual yoga and meditation sessions as well as consultation with specialized psychologists.
HGS is also helping the working mothers through virtual sessions that keep their whole family engaged. "With the intent to provide some respite, we have been conducting virtual summer camps and classes, storytelling sessions and fun games/ activities for our employees’ children, in partnership with our childcare vendors. Our most recent initiative is the ‘Positive Parenting’ program, a 4-workshop series for all our working parents. The sessions will be conducted virtually and are a mixed bag with something for parents of children across age groups," shared Shilpa Sinha Harsh, SVP – Global Corporate Communications, CSR and D&I, HGS.
Creating a space for working mothers to share their concerns
At the end of the day open conversations driven by empathy and compassion supercede all initiatives. Even while working remotely, leaders have to ensure that an inclusive and open working culture is maintained, where working mothers feel free to share their concerns.
Some organizations are even creating exclusive opportunities for working mothers to share their concerns. For instance, HGS through moderated discussions invite employees to share their parenting experiences and difficulties, and include tips and tricks to engage with children.
Examine the workloads and do regular check-in on their mental health. Be open about the realities and difficulties of taking care of children. In fact, it is time we accept that some parents will need to attend virtual meetings with kids in the room or even on their laps. Better engage with them and make them feel part of the family. Kids are also your co-workers now. This positive behavior can strengthen the employee-leader bond further and ensure that you have a family friendly workplace even without an office.
Crisis or no crisis, organizations need to support working mothers in order to ensure the well being of working mothers all around the world so that they can enjoy the best of both the world-of being a great employee and a great mother!
Happy Mother’s Day!