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  • Writer's pictureHolly Corbett

Parenting In The New World Of Work: 4 Ways To Make Remote Work Equitable


Mother holding baby in her lap at her computer
In October, 100,000 Americans missed work because of childcare problems as a big wave of viral infections such as the flu, the common cold, RSV and Covid-19 swept the nation. This is an even greater number than at the height of the pandemic. GETTY

The new world of work is here to stay. Before the pandemic, only about 20% of knowledge workers worked from home, but that number rose to 71% during the pandemic. Since the majority of caregiving duties continue to largely fall on women’s shoulders, women left the workforce at a much higher rate than men. In October, 100,000 Americans missed work because of childcare problems as a big wave of viral infections such as the flu, the common cold, RSV and Covid-19 swept the nation. This is an even greater number than at the height of the pandemic.


Working parents, particularly working mothers, continue to feel squeezed by the competing pressures of childcare and workplace demands. At the same time, the pandemic sparked a shift in how many employees feel about work. The transition for many workers to remote and hybrid environments has shown that the ideal worker norm, where people are expected to make work their top priority and always be available, has illustrated that this way of working is not sustainable–especially given that many people’s homes now double as their offices.


We’ve seen people being more willing to leave organizations that don’t allow them to have boundaries between work and home—from the Great Resignation to the Great Breakup, where women leaders are demanding more from work and are more likely to switch jobs to get their needs met. Many working mothers are no longer accepting the status quo, or those ideal worker norms, that were never designed for women. It also required people to be intentional about setting more clear boundaries between work and home, and it looks different for different people depending on their unique personal circumstances. Another positive of the transition to remote work, according to the Women in the Workplace 2022 Report, is that women with other traditionally marginalized identities, such as women of color and women with disabilities, are less likely to experience microaggressions when they work remotely.


On the flipside, there are still stigmas attached to remote work, with in-office workers getting more facetime and maybe being more top of mind when it comes to key assignments or promotions. Working parents, women or other people with traditionally marginalized identities are more likely to choose remote work, so we can’t let this send us backwards on equity.


While working parents are waiting for policy change to catch up, here are some steps employees and companies can take to help attract and retain working parents.


Measure performance on results. It’s time to change the way companies evaluate performance and base it more on results rather than on when and where people work. To mitigate flexibility stigma—which is the unfair judgment of employees who work flexible hours or work from home and may face more doubts about their commitment and productivity—companies can put concrete metrics in place to measure accomplishments and how effectively workers are achieving business goals.


Train managers on how to manage in remote and hybrid environments. In this new world of work, many managers are not being given the right tools. Managers are essential drivers of workplace culture for all employees, and especially for women: Having a supportive manager is one of the top three factors women consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company. Yet there’s a growing gap between what’s expected of managers and how they’re being trained and rewarded. According to the Women in the Workplace 2022 Report, less than 50% of manager trainings addresses topics such as how to prevent employee burnout and make sure promotions are equitable. An important step is training managers on how to make remote and hybrid working environments more inclusive.


Be intentional about connection building. Employees may lose connection to their teams in a remote or hybrid environment if companies are not reimagining new ways to connect and create cultures of inclusion. Take for example Davis Smith, the founder of Cotopaxi, who once thought connection only happened in the office. He pivoted to a remote team during Covid-19 by doing virtual team hikes every other Friday with a town hall afterwards where an employee does what they call a “lifeline,” sharing their personal stories in a way that didn’t happen while bumping into each other in the office.


Value women’s time. I interviewed Eve Rodsky, the author of Fair Play, and she said that society has been built on the unpaid and undervalued work of women, and especially women of color. Ultimately, this is a value issue, where we value women’s time less than their male counterparts. In general, women shoulder the bulk of unpaid work at home, and are paid less than white men for their time in the workplace. The new unpaid office housework for women is being DEI leaders. This needs to change.


Personal lives are public issues, and working mothers may feel like they’re struggling alone but they’re part of a larger system. Rodsky says the home is so dangerous because it presents so small, and that the most insidious place she sees time bias play out is in the home, where women tend to take on a larger share of duties, such as cleaning the house, making sure the homework gets done and staying home with sick children.

Working mothers will burn out if their time isn’t valued and if they do not find ways to put boundaries in place to protect their time. They will have less to give to themselves, their families, their workplaces and their communities. The world will lose out on their ideas, creative solutions and their leadership.


This means that while women are waiting for policies and workplaces to start valuing their time equally, they will have to be intentional about pushing back and valuing their own time. It might mean taking time to figure out what your values are, finding creative ways to make your schedule better match those values, and letting go of things where you can. It could look like asking your manager for what you need—whether that’s to work non-traditional hours or for a pay raise or to take on a big assignment. We’ve seen a trend of women being more willing to walk away from workplaces that aren’t meeting their needs. If you have a partner, it might mean having some tough conversations about how to share more of the load. It might mean intentionally taking time for yourself every day, even if it’s a few minutes, because the work will never be finished and failing to take care of oneself increases the risk of burnout.


Unfortunately in a world where women have been taught to undervalue their time, they have to work hard to reclaim it. This is not a woman’s problem or a man’s problem; this is everyone’s problem. Most men don’t want to live in a world where they have to live up to the always-on ideal worker norm and feel guilty taking paternity leave or going to their child’s game. This is a new world, where work is not the most important priority. Companies who create cultures that work for parents will benefit from having a workforce that is less burned out, and will have more passionate and engaged teams. Moreover, cultures that work for parents ultimately benefit all workers who want to have a life outside of work.


*Article originally published in Forbes


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