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The emergence of COVID-19 has taken a toll on women in the workforce

2021 ඔක්තෝබර් 19

The emergence of COVID-19 has taken a toll on women in the workforce
00:00 / 01:04

Work life balance – a concept that is commonly spoken of, yet hardly practiced and found hard to practice is only seeming to be even more farfetched post-pandemic...

Work life balance – a concept that is commonly spoken of, yet hardly practiced and found hard to practice is only seeming to be even more farfetched post-pandemic. This is mainly because the emergence of COVID-19 has hauled employees to the new norm of working-from-home. Technological advancement, while has enabled work-from-home and helped maintain economic productivity; has also made employees accessible to managers around the clock erasing almost any boundaries that may have previously existed between one’s work life and personal life. Certain social analysts have elaborated that a significant number of working professionals claimed on working more than 50 hours per week to merely survive and thrive in their jobs.

A category of employees that has been hardest hit by the pandemic and are feeling the impact far worse than the rest are working women and in particular, working moms. This is because women are having to multi task between taking care of children, home schooling, routine household chores as well as fulfilling their job role at the workplace, all at the same time.

The question gets asked – wasn’t this the case even pre-pandemic?

Yes, while the difficulties faced by women is not a new phenomenon, surveys have revealed that the pandemic has only made it harder upon them. This is because pre-pandemic, women were able to focus on each of their roles specifically, one at a time, with kids being taken care of at school, or nannies and day care facilities available for kids under the age of 5. However, post-pandemic, with fears of infection and closure of schools, parks, day-care facilities and reduction of daily caretakers and helpers, women have had to take care of all roles in one go.

So, as corporates grow to ensure sustainable and ethical business practices across multiple aspects, could they extend their conscious efforts to support women in their workforce? It is seemingly apparent that simple efforts such as seminars, flexible work hours and workplace reforms can go a long way in enabling a less pressurised work lifestyle for moms.

1. Workplace reforms can help working moms feel an integral part of the office.

Employers could conduct seminars and programs to educate co-workers to help them understand and be mindful of the disproportionate burden upon working women so that they could exercise caution when delegating work tasks, assigning timelines for completion and KPIs to evaluate their performance. Conducting programs to help create a culture that will enable other employees to be accommodative of perhaps, minor mistakes or be more alert to help follow up closely and send reminders to avoid delays in communications can help ensure that work gets done on time while relieving triggers of stress to a working mom.

This is even more important for moms returning to work post-partum, transitioning from a 12-week maternity leave to familiarizing with structural or systematic changes made at the workplace during their absence. The feeling of exhaustion and difficulty of managing their newest role, motherhood, coupled with absorbing everything that’s going on at the workplace instills a large pressure into the minds of such employees. While postpartum mental health is a temporary setback and does not affect all new mothers, it is an obligation of the organization and its workers to be more considerate of such employees and comprehend what steps to take to make life better for them.

2. Flexi-work hours can help increase productivity

In order to tactically optimize the productivity of a career woman, employers could adopt simple mechanisms such as flexi-hours. Enabling women to work during their hours of convenience while ensuring timely delivery of output is a great tactic to workforce optimization. The concept of working at ones freewill in terms of time generates a sense of freedom and helps to bring out the best in them. Such liberalized employees perform better than those that feel pressurized, as stress leads to sub optimal output. Hence, a shift away from the standard clock in and clock out of a rigid 8-hour work day to an output-based delivery model where women can plan work to fit in with the rest of their day will significantly help increase productivity and output.

3. Part time work options are a win-win

Employers are aware of the incessant obstacles in balancing the dual roles as a fully-fledged professional and a mother. While some firms tend to avoid hiring women given the fears of having to deal with maternity leaves and post maternity productivity management, there are multiple successful firms that have effectively employed a large number of women in their workforce, including leadership positions.

An ideological theory of consistent work-life balance may seem unrealistic for a woman because at any given point in time, one responsibility of hers would weigh over another. A simple tactic that can help this dilemma faced by moms at work is an option to work part time. This effectively reduces the level of workload one can take on within a day. A part time job can enable a woman in the workforce to balance her roles well, giving her a good day with no guilt of shirking on any of her commitments. This is a win-win for companies as they do not receive a sub-optimal output or reduced productivity for a full pay, rather a fair pay for an optimal half day of work.

It is apparent that the constant feeling of guilt that remains in the conscience of all working women for failing to maintain a balance between life and work can be addressed and helped by employers. It is important that leaders and managers empathize with women and create a community that breaks free of traditional norms that have a sole focus on productivity and output to incorporate empathetic and conscious work ethics.

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