“Back to back meetings and email etiquette all depend on your boss. If you have a reasonable boss these are not stressors.”
“I think the lack of communication and gray areas with new projects creates a lot of stress. Starting projects without them being planned and fleshed out can cause a lot of wasted energy and time. Energy and time are such huge commodities at this juncture.”
“We are expected to work more than 40 hours. (They) say we have flexibility but doesn’t feel that way. Lots of guilt for a late start or taking off in the middle of the day to take care of a kid thing and let’s be honest after a long day last thing I want to do is also work at 10pm a night. I would like to see a world where we don’t have to log every minute of our day and made to look bad if we actually work only a 40 hr week. Better yet. I would like to work no more than 6 hours a day.”
When asked, ‘what, if anything, does your employer do that causes unnecessary stress?’ in our most recent survey wave, 80% who responded, had something to share. And It’s everything from late night emails to inflexible schedules. Despite what’s happening in the backdrop, some employers continue to push people in unreasonable ways. Over, 2,400 parents, overwhelmingly Moms (96%) have participated in our pandemic study since March of 2020. And most continue to navigate work without the childcare or self-care that made it all possible pre-Covid.
We invest so heavily in our careers that we’re thrilled to use our gifts at work. But once we get the job, we tend to forget that it’s meant to be a mutual value exchange. So, we default to try and exceed expectations. Even when employers fail to honor important commitments. Why? Because there’s more than just money at stake. It’s your health insurance, professional relationships, and reputation. A lot of stability is cleverly disguised in work. And so, we put up with a lot. But exhausted Moms are pretty tired of making do.
There’s a Lot of Emotion Behind the Great Resignation
“The expectation that we will be available 24/7, the expectation that every day being overworked and micromanaged it the only way to get work done.”
“A request that we return full time, but we are short on space so some employees are forced to work 40 hours at a desk/cubicle designed for a storage warehouse.”
“No work life balance (60+ hours every week); must return to office.”
Most surveyed parents (75%) have faced childcare disruptions since the pandemic. So, a lack of trust or support at work, only ramps up the stress and self-doubt for overwrought Moms. Almost half (46%) cite doing terribly, or not as well as usual, as workers. And more than half (54%) plan to leave their current roles.
Lack of Flexibility Often Shows up As Lack of Trust
“Cameras on for nearly all Zoom calls, pressure to make sure we are showing our Board we are all being “productive” while working from home.”
“The unspoken assumption that you should always be a available- I feel like I can’t even take a lunch or break as that will show me as ‘away'”
“Set core hours and strict rules about in office days (can’t do some hours from home if parent issues come up.)”
Michelle Keefe, whose company recruits Moms into flexible roles, said “If you hire the right person and get them excited and engaged in the work, then trust that they’re producing what they need to produce, that relationship is gold. Because trust is a huge thing!” Exactly. And when it’s not there, people feel it. She added, “The employers that go into it thinking, ‘I need to babysit my employees or have them on Zoom from 9 to 5 because I need to know that they’re working,’ are never going to have truly engaged employees. Because their people are never going to feel like grown-ups.”
So, We Often Overcompensate
“I’m tired of women having to sacrifice their full-time salary and their benefits because they’re just trying to do what pretty much most of the adult population is doing,” Michelle said. Caregiving isn’t fringe. Most workers are or will become caregivers. How many Mothers, in professional roles with part-time schedules, actually work those reduced hours? Right, not many. Women are less likely to hold firm boundaries at work. But Moms aren’t broken, the workplace is. Bias is still rampant. So, when will we stop feeling the need to prove our worth by over delivering?
And Burn Out in the Process
Work hasn’t changed much since the post-industrial era. And for Mothers to succeed in greater numbers, it has to. Michelle explained, “We’re never going to fix those rungs on the ladder to keep women in leadership roles. So, let’s just make the workplace more functional. I’d rather be advocating for a better workplace and finding women full-time opportunities at awesome organizations. Than having them work for a part-time salary yet still check their email at night.” Amen! Is institutionalizing work from home the only way?
Which is Why Many Resist Returning to the Office
Remote work is only part of the equation. “If you look at Moms as a cohort, there isn’t one answer,” Michelle explained. “So, some employers, out of a desire not to box people in said, ‘hey go do whatever you want to do, anything goes.’ Whereas others are trying to do this hybrid, best of both worlds, concept.” In our study, reclaiming time lost commuting was among the most popular pandemic benefits. And most who can, want to work from home, at least part-time. But it’s not for everyone.
But it’s Much Bigger Than Where You Sit
If you can’t care for yourself or kids, because of work, whether you’re at the office or your kitchen table doesn’t matter. Family-friendly work goes deeper. And Michelle sees this from women in the job market. She said, “There’s this movement happening but at the same time, they have a little bit of fear. ‘How much support am I going to get going forward? Am I at a point where I can just go to my boss and say hey, listen this is the way the world is going. Can I go remote or have some flexibility?’ In a lot of situations, companies are taking the reins and establishing the parameters.”
There is an Opportunity to Change how Work, Works
Michelle said, “It’s immensely important for leadership teams to really talk about it. To say that parents are struggling. And that this awful situation, unveiled that we are putting crazy expectations on people and something has to change. But it has to be the people with power because it’s hard to go in as an individual. It can’t always be the mid-level managers or employees. They don’t have the voice.” This is echoed in our study results.
But it Has to Begin at the Top
“If I could harken back to the Me Too movement a few years ago, it’s a very extreme example of what happens in the workplace but it started with celebrities. And then trickled its way into every person saying ‘okay, I’m experiencing microaggressions. Or I’m experiencing overt harassment.’ But it took a lot of people and a lot of people with power, to set that tone. And I think a similar thing has to happen here.”
Changes to organizational culture often begin in the C-Suite. Michelle added, “Leaders need to say, ‘this is not right and you’ve got to make things work for our people. It behooves our company, progress, efficiency, and happiness.’ These are the things that make great employees stay. And then, it’s talking to employees to see what they need.”
To Make Flexibility the Norm. For Everyone
We won’t close the wage or leadership gaps for women without participation from men. Michelle said, “If women are always the ones to ask for flexibility it’s hard. Dads also have to ask. You know that if a Mom says, ‘I need to work from home two days a week. Or I need to work four days a week,’ she’s not doing it to get her nails done and have a good time. Those are the days that she’s grocery shopping or taking kids to doctor’s appointments.”
Exactly. If women continue to own all the childcare and housework, nothing will change. Michelle explained “If the Dads are also saying it, now both parents can have two days at home. It’s also a childcare savings, to have three days of someone watching the kids versus five. There has to be a lot of discussion on the home front. Because it doesn’t always have to be Moms taking a step back or making these requests at work.”
And Teach Managers How to Create it
Organizations often use words like trust and respect in their mission statements. But it’s still individual managers who deliver those values. And many don’t know how to. Michelle said, “There also has to be training for managers. Where the danger comes in, is for Moms to be labeled as the ones asking for flexibility.” Flexibility is good for everyone, not only caregivers.
Michelle explained, ‘If you do your due diligence and the right things, to attract and retain the right people. Then you can build that relationship of trust. And know that they’re going to get their work done. And they’re going to do it beautifully because it’s human nature to want to do well. So, give people that space to allow themselves to be their best.”
Remember, if Your Workplace Doesn’t Work for You, Upgrade
After 18 months of pandemic grief and stress, people are reorienting their lives. And choosing fulfillment. So, if you’re not fired up by the work that you do or the environment you do it in, it’s a great time to make changes. Michelle said, “As we hopefully move into a more progressive, flexible and hybrid world, the full-time work opportunities are going to grow for women. And that’s super important because that is part of the problem.”
Share your pandemic experiences! How are the latest changes affecting your life? It’s quick and the results from this study are used to advocate better support for parents.
Employers, let us help you transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.
Many thanks to the talented Michelle Keefe!
About Michelle Keefe, CEO of MomUp
Entrepreneurship is old hat for Michelle – having successfully run and sold her first business, Misha K, before the age of 30. She now leads MomUp in its quest to connect organizations with the amazing resource of mothers. As a stay-at-home mom, Michelle discovered, like many of her friends, she wanted to continue er career path with businesses who value work/life balance. Michelle found herself surrounded by highly educated, skilled, energetic multi-tasking mega stars that were unemployed and looking for new and exciting challenges. She realized that by forging partnerships with progressive companies and connecting them with skilled talent, MomUp could make a huge impact. Michelle holds a graduate degree from Harvard University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Norte Dame. When she can, Michelle tries to sneak in teaching a yoga class on the side. And she recently spent 6 weeks in New Zealand living in a camper van with her husband and 3 kids.