Care for the Caregivers: Work Flexibility in the Era of Covid

What Employers Need to Know

“…I am working 12 hour days right now remotely and barely have time to feed people let alone do a good job keeping the kids schedules organized.”

“Understanding from work that we need to reduce our hours to support homeschooling. And support our children.”

Since late March, over 1,000* parents, primarily Moms (94%) have anonymously shared the pandemic’s impact to their work and lives. Most are working from home (71%) without childcare or on-site schools for their children (70%.) When asked, ‘what should their employer change’ overwhelmingly, they want variations of the same theme, flexibility.

They need discretion over how many hours and when they work. Ideally, in the form of: flextime and/or hours, sick leave, increased personal and/or paid time off.

Captivity is Officially Over

“Longer lunch break since I’m not only catering to myself for lunch.”

“Flexibility for kid wrangling times.”

Work has always revolved around captive time. Usually in an office or building. And pre-Covid, we were paid for hours of Continue reading “Care for the Caregivers: Work Flexibility in the Era of Covid”

This is not About Self-Care. This is About Your Sanity

Mental health was precarious for parents pre-Covid. And as the crisis continues, over 1,000* surveyed parents, mostly Moms (94%) admit they’ve eliminated time spent on their own wellness to cope with the added workload.

They’re overwhelmingly working from home (71%) without childcare (70%) and report doing ‘terribly’ or ‘worse than usual’ as caregivers to themselves (72%.) They’ve paused exercise, hobbies and date nights. And many refuse to take vacation time out of concern for job security.

Many achieve career success by ignoring well intentioned advice about balance. We’re incented to run, not rest, in most industries. Pre-Covid, more than half of Americans didn’t take all of their paid vacation time. But everything is different now and breaks have become critical.

When asked, ‘what’s been the hardest?’ many cite increased challenges with emotional and mental wellbeing.

“Keeping up with mental health.”

“Maintaining routines even when feeling depressed and unmotivated.”

“Not having a ‘finish line.’ We truly don’t know when this will end, and it makes it hard to keep going and do the right thing.’’

Self-Care Is Essential

For parents, faced with an uneven back-to-school and wobbly job market, self-care may seem frivolous. Yet, like the masks and the other health protocols we follow, it’s vital. Dr. Charmain Jackman, Clinical Psychologist & Founder of InnoPsych said, “It starts with your mindset. You really need to understand that self-care is important. It’s not about pampering, like getting a pedicure. Self-care is about giving your mind and Continue reading “This is not About Self-Care. This is About Your Sanity”

What Working Parents Want Their Managers to Know

Over 1,000* surveyed parents, primarily Moms (94%) were open about what they need from work for their productivity, wellbeing and happiness. Most (70%) have had their childcare disrupted by the pandemic and crave understanding. And yes, that includes more flexibility and control over their time so they can care for their children and themselves.

“Less check-in meetings. Just trust the job will get done.”

“…I still have the same 35-hour workload of meetings and manage staff and my husband is having to take over care for our one-year-old on top of his project-based work.”

“…In many ways I feel for my employer and understand that you can’t make exceptions for those with or without kids. However, I do think less meetings would be helpful and give parents flexibility on time. A four-day work week would also be great!”

“Lower expectations with lowered staff (had layoffs but same expectations). Offer more flexibility, (there’s) no need for 9 am to 5 pm in the digital world.”

Most parents can’t maintain the habits of overwork that are common in our culture. And non-stop work, wasn’t healthy or effective for peak performance anyway. But as the recession deepens, many choose to quietly endure Continue reading “What Working Parents Want Their Managers to Know”

How to Restore Work/Life Boundaries Working From Home

“Today is different from yesterday and this week is different from last week. You can have some kids in school but if the County is on a watch list for Covid, then you can’t be in school. And, if there’s anyone in the community that gets Covid, then everything has to shut down and go virtual for two weeks. I get what they’re trying to do but it’s very fluid and not super helpful,” said Alexis Haselberger.

A lot of us are in the midst of or planning for back-to-school pandemic-style. Hybrid schedules. On and off days, lunch at home and no transportation. Back to school was always a high-stakes time of transition. But this year’s lack of consistency and threat of Covid-19, is a recipe for mental load stress. And productivity, for even the most seasoned work-from-home parents, has been flipped upside down by having the kids at home. I asked Alexis a productivity expert, for smart strategies to set this season of work-and-school-from-home, up for success.

Where Are You Right Now? Start There.

Although it’s true, it was hard before and it’s become harder, Alexis suggests starting with today. The current conditions do not resemble what once was. She said, “The mental framework I’ve been using is to ask, ‘what is working and not working right Continue reading “How to Restore Work/Life Boundaries Working From Home”

Help Is Not On the Way (And It’s Not Going Well)

Can Psychological Safety Can Make Work More Sane Right Now?

This is part of an ongoing series, to share results from the pandemic research study. This update is from nearly 400 parents, primarily Moms (91%) who responded between March 30 – June 6th about how COVID-19 has affected work and life, including what has been the hardest.

“The instability of both my job and ability to secure safe childcare (many will call out with late notice after finding out I work in healthcare.)”

“… uncertainty about when life can safely return to normal and perhaps more importantly the anxiety that my partner is likely going to be asked to return to work before we feel doing so meets our own personal threshold of risk.”

“I was working remotely then requested to be furloughed as both my husband and I were working remote with our 10-month-old and it was too much without help.”

More Responsibilities at Home Have Come at the Expense of Work

Surveyed Moms and Dads have leaned into their family roles during this time of crisis. 68% felt that they were doing the same, a better job than usual, or really well as parents and, though by a smaller majority, as spouses/partners. However, most (58%) felt that they were doing terribly or not as well as usual in their performance as workers and most (60%) sacrificed self-care routines to make space for the added responsibilities.  There are, however, exceptions. One surveyed Mom shared, “My kids are 9 and 10. They do their schoolwork and play/watch TV on their own while I’m working. My partner is now working from home, too, so I feel like I have more help than usual. I’m more productive now than I was when I was going to my workplace.”

Help Is Not On the Way for Most

The work/life juggle after having kids tested even the most optimistic parents. But in this pandemic, childcare, a prerequisite for working parenthood was disrupted for the overwhelming majority (74%) of those surveyed. And people are breaking under the strain of trying to do the absurd – work, Continue reading “Help Is Not On the Way (And It’s Not Going Well)”

The Details of How to Make Personal Change Stick

A Book Review For Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander

I read and listen to books about everything from bravery and acceptance to productivity and leadership. I’ve been in the slow but intentional process of self-renewal for years. Recently, I discovered Pathways to Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander. It’s the companion to one of my favorite books, The Art of Possibility that she co-authored with her husband, Benjamin Zander.

The best of cognitive science teaches that our thoughts affect our feelings. And ultimately, our happiness. Self-help can be heavy on the ‘why’ but light on the ‘how.’ It’s rare to find details about internalizing big ideas. Adopting new routines is not the same as resetting one’s internal Continue reading “The Details of How to Make Personal Change Stick”

Self-Care Is the First Thing to Go in a Crisis

Nearly 400* parents shared anonymously how the pandemic is affecting their lives. This is the first in a series of updates with results.

“With the lack of childcare, I have no time to work or take care of our apartment. I earn a lot less than my husband and work for myself in an industry that has slowed down, so I have taken on the vast majority of the extra childcare and schooling. With only one kid and a small apartment with no yard, this feels like a full-time job! I love parts of it but would enjoy it more if I got breaks. The timeline is overwhelming.”

“My son is 3 and he DESPERATELY misses school and doing things with us. Both my husband and I work full time and cannot take shifts. We feel like terrible parents and terrible employees. For 14 hours a day. Every day. There is no break, nothing to look forward to, no sanity.”

We’re responding to epic change while doing more of everything. There’s more housework, childcare and involvement in activities for our kids. And more required to stabilize our work, families and communities. When the pandemic disrupted life, we didn’t know how long it would last. So, we eliminated self-care to make space for the added responsibilities. Unfortunately, COVID19 is just one of many threats to our wellbeing.

Establishing habits that support our mental and physical health can take years! In this crisis, it’s hard to even think about self-care but it’s critical to manage the stress that also harms our health. Most (61%) surveyed Moms report doing ‘terribly’ or ‘not as well as usual’ caring for themselves.

The Pressure is Unforgiving

When asked ‘what’s been the hardest?’ in this pandemic the list of concerns is long and varied. Moms worry about everything from their own Continue reading “Self-Care Is the First Thing to Go in a Crisis”

Is The Myth of ‘Having it All’ Hurting Our Work/Life Boundaries?

Work. Is. Different.

“I generally prioritize my family and work over myself,” admits one surveyed Mom. “I am the breadwinner … and turn myself inside out at work to try to keep my standing there. Then I come home and want as much time as I can have with my kids. And there’s little time left for me. I feel like my kids are little once and I can’t get the time with them back.”

Nearly 200 Moms shared their struggles, triumphs and feelings in the survey about setting personal boundaries. The context and consequences for drawing lines at work are different. Somewhere in the back of our minds, despite grim statistics about the motherhood penalty, we believe there’s a loophole. We were promised life without limits, and want to prove to ourselves that being great Moms while doing Continue reading “Is The Myth of ‘Having it All’ Hurting Our Work/Life Boundaries?”

Can Self-Care Be Your Secret to Professional Success?

How do you transition from intrapreneur to entrepreneur, with your boss’ blessing, then sell and expand your company? With a disciplined approach to self-care and smart systems at home. Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, entrepreneur and Supermom, has built an extraordinary career while nurturing her creative soul.

Ambitious Moms face a dilemma. The rules for growth at work change just when requirements at home increase. Solutions to outsmart the wage and achievement gaps elude most women. Why? Work infrastructure doesn’t really favor working Moms. To succeed, despite this, requires mental energy and creativity. Resources most Moms lack. What if self-care, dismissed by most to save time, is the Continue reading “Can Self-Care Be Your Secret to Professional Success?”

If Setting Better Boundaries Can Improve Your Life, Why Don’t You?

“I think part of the problem is that I hardly have any boundaries. I’ve given up eating, sleeping, showering on a regular basis just to maintain work and family. Forget self-care, tv, movies, reading or seeing friends. No time!”

“I’m not sure what to say about this… I don’t know that I have rules for myself at home, other than the ‘alone time’ trigger, which is less a rule than an escape clause…”

What rules do you set to protect your time? What routines help you keep commitments, to yourself, and others? In an anonymous survey, nearly 200 Moms shared their experiences setting, modifying (and yes, ignoring) their personal boundaries. We spend so much energy navigating external boundaries, the barriers between what we have and want, that we forget to erect our own. Protective ones.

Strong personal boundaries are the answer to over-do and never-done. The tenuous states of anxiety most Moms call home. We fritter from must-do to have-to and rarely make space to think. Practicing regular self-care, or just relaxing, begins to feel impossible. It’s scary when the life we wanted doesn’t leave room for what we need. We do it for our children, partners and communities. We do it because it’s  Continue reading “If Setting Better Boundaries Can Improve Your Life, Why Don’t You?”

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