Why Women are bearing the brunt of the COVID Pandemic while Working from Home

COVID 19 has brought most us of us to a new normal – that of working from home! Pyjamas all day, Netflix and chill, food on the table – and if you are more fortunate, food in your room. Luxuries of the pandemic effect is endless – for those of us who have the luxury of getting all things done by someone else. But, have your ever thought how the so called “unplanned vacation ride” has been for the working folks? Especially, the ones bearing the double burden of home-work and work-work?

If we are at the liberty to say it, yes, working women are the most affected category of people, when the pandemic hit. While work from home is like a dream-come-true moment for some of us, it is mostly a nightmare for working moms, as per the trending stories making their rounds, online. It is not that usual case of getting ‘home work’ done – being productive when the spouse is at his office and children in their schools. It is a demanding situation where you become the scrum master or crisis management expert! Here now, let’s have a look at the different, common, trending situations and potential solutions to overcome this together – the one solution which is, by being there for them.

Unequal Partnerships and Added Responsibilities:

A better-half is someone whom you look forward to during the good and the bad. Flexibility being available to the ultimate extend now-a-days, women are still not able to balance what is on their plate. Managing household responsibilities is completely the arena of women folks – thinks an unbelievingly good percent of people, especially in India. Recorded as the country with largest gender chore gap, according to the Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report released in 2016, women spend on an average of 300 more minutes than men, every single day. Indian households see women become even more burdened with responsibilities, given their status the primary caregivers. The degree of participation in the home role has created difficulties for participation in work, resulting in the home-work conflict for women. This cognitive dissonance could be the reason for added stress levels in women professionals.

The Mental Load and Invisible Labour:

As complex the spice route was, so is the complexity in combining it together to craft a wholesome Indian meal. Home-cooked meals is a long-drawn affair. To top it up with the demand of availing it fresh, working women is burdened with additional stress. The absence of maids and food delivery services makes it even worse. There is also the challenge of dishing out several snacks in a day to the kids on vacation. The invisible labour and mental load of planning meals, managing groceries, planning and organizing other household chores add to the stress levels.

Inner Critic:

Sceptical of one’s own quality of work is an innate ‘quality’ every woman carries. There is always an inner critic working towards making everything perfect, flawless – be it at home or work. Women are often worried about not matching up the very high standards set by themselves. So along with managing other responsibilities at home, if they miss a timeline or if the quality of a deliverable suffers, the inner critic in them often makes them feel ‘I am not being good enough’.

Lack of Child-care Facilities/Summer Camps:

Given the crisis, it is a no – no to send the younger ones anyplace outside. But, unavailability of aids for helping with childcare adds on to the tormenting situation.

In times like these, we will see “Allies” emerge around us. Male Allies are those who are champions of gender inclusion who extends their support to their mothers, sisters, wives and friends. In fact, at the Avtar & Working Mother Media’s Best Companies for Women in India, we have instituted something called Male Ally Legacy  Awards for all the leaders, managers who relentlessly champion the cause of gender inclusion in the corporate world by mentoring, coaching and ensuring that their intentionality causes ripple effects across their organizations.

Women on their part, will have to negotiate with their family members and chart out a plan for each day involving each member of the family. To ensure their mental health remains stable, working women will have to prioritize their health to keep the household in order. Here are some DIYs:

  • Practise “me-time”: Give yourself good 30 minutes either at the start of the day or towards the end of the day with no disturbance. This could be in the form of meditation, exercise, yoga or any other form of physical exercise.
  • Social-distancing and not community distancing: You may feel distanced from everyone, but there must always be a group of friends that are there for you over a call. Stay connected.
  • Remember you are not alone: The entire world is with you. Don’t read too much about the pandemic. Knowing more than what you should know is overwhelming.
  • Stick to your work time: While it may be tempting to snooze the alarm clock, it is much better to stick to your work routine to better integrate work and home.

It is conceptually easier to talk about change in the workplace. But changing mind-sets is the toughest challenge. The patriarchal mindset that is so prevalent in India is one reason why we have the largest gender chore gap in India. No gender is physically predisposed to want to do the dishes or take out the trash is a message that has to be imbibed in the Indian men and boys. This can be achieved only through gender sensitization starting from the school level and by imprinting the idea of equality and cooperation.

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