How women have adapted to remote work while caring for their families

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“Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” is the theme for Women’s History Month in 2022. It was designated by the National Women’s History Alliance as a tribute to the uninterrupted work of frontline workers and caregivers during the pandemic and an appreciation of the countless ways that women have provided healing and hope throughout history.

The federal government employs about 975,000 women, representing 44.3% of its workforce, and the pandemic has affected all of them.

Before the pandemic, families with infants, babies and school-age children were already facing challenges. Choosing the ideal childcare situation, juggling multiple school schedules and managing before- and after-school issues were issues before the pandemic, and they will remain once it’s gone.

Prior to 2020, neither employers nor employees were prepared for remote work to become the “new normal”.  However, many government agencies began to weigh the benefits of remote work. Even though 90% of federal employees are already vaccinated, most of them continue to work from home.

This challenge has disproportionately affected women.

Dependent Care Guidance

Caring for their families is one of the greatest concerns for working women. Many federal agencies offer employee assistance in a variety of ways, including resources, referral services and the childcare subsidy program. Federal employees also have access to the Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account program, which can be used to pay for eligible childcare expenses that allow you and your spouse to work, look for work or attend school full-time. You may elect up to $5,000 each year. Also, under a newly passed law, federal employees with school-aged children or children needing daycare are eligible for two weeks (or 80 hours) of partially paid leave if your child’s school or daycare is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.

Remote work is, at the very least, more likely to keep women in the workforce

Women who have the opportunity to work remotely are less likely to say they would quit their job in the next year compared to those who are not able to work from home (Vox, 2021).

But adjusting to this new environment includes logistical challenges like internet connectivity and other work or family-related issues.

Tips on adapting to remote work:

  • Keep a to-do checklist for both home and office work
  • Begin the day with some physical and mental exercises to increase the power of concentration
  • Split the working day into 2–3-hour blocks with a break between them, using the downtime to complete any important home tasks
  • Have a dedicated workspace that is well-lit and ventilated
  • Make sure there are clear boundaries between work and home life
  • Stay in touch with colleagues
  • Create an agreement with the family about the importance of work’s schedule, to avoid unnecessary interruptions.

It’s normal to feel anxious, confused and frustrated when adapting to this new situation. However, according to Tara Van Bommel, director, and statistician at Catalyst, “it has been found that access to remote work decreases burnout and it does it for everyone, not just women.”

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