If you have been lucky enough to be able to continue to work from home during the lockdown, you will have no doubt figured out a routine that (hopefully) works for you and your family.
You have mastered the morning Zoom meetings while simultaneously pouring cereal for your kids, just out of frame. You’ve figured out the time slots for getting the optimal amount of work done in between wash cycles. You’re balancing your life and the tasks in it with more efficiency than ever before and you find yourself with a few hours in the evening to actually put your feet up. Lockdown has been difficult in many ways, but it has also opened our eyes to what life could be like, without the need for our daily commutes.
We have replaced our morning commute with a little more kip and a quiet cup of coffee on the couch. Our evenings are no longer spent pushing for a bit of space on the train journey home and feeling like you’ve won the lotto if you actually find a seat. Gone is arriving home in the dark after a long day, just to be faced with the insurmountable task of cooking a healthy dinner.
So, if lockdown has shown us the extreme opposite end of the scale, is it possible that we can hang onto some of the benefits when life returns to ‘normal’?
The great (un)divide
It is fair to say that women, for the majority, carry a disproportionate mental load when it comes to their families. The mental load, also sometimes called emotional labour, is defined by just constantly having things on your mind. Remembering to pack the PE gear, that next week it’s your mother-in-laws birthday, or that you’re out of eggs. Women are the project managers for their homes and the people who live in it and this really takes its toll.
Ask yourselves if you have ever been in a situation when you got angry because someone didn’t vacuum or someone got angry at YOU because you didn’t vacuum? At some point in that argument, someone might exclaim “Why didn’t you ask me to vacuum the house?” and that is a part of the problem. Having to remember to vacuum, ask someone to do it and then check if it was done is all part of emotional labour.
When you spend all day in work and return home to find yourself putting on your project manager hat, the day can constantly feel like it never has enough hours to get everything done.
This is where lockdown changed things slightly. While not necessarily improving the divide of the emotional labour, which is its own battle, it has definitely given women more time in their day to manage the household tasks, while still getting the work they’re actually paid to do, done. If working from home continues on a widespread basis even after lockdown, this could really open up some doors for women that might have been shut to them before now.
The gender gap
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the percentage of eligible women employed in Ireland is 53%, compared to 67.3% of eligible men. Spot the difference and that is what we call the gender gap. There are many reasons for the gender gap, including occupational segregation, unequal pay and discrimination. In a standard two-parent, heterosexual relationship, women are far more likely to be at home, looking after children and running their households than men. However, when surveyed by the ILO, 70% of women, regardless of their employment status, would rather work in paid jobs.
If more and more businesses start to offer remote working alternatives, then maybe the opportunities for women with children, who wish to work but need to balance their busy lives, will increase.
No longer all or nothing
Obviously, every company will be different and nothing can ever replace the importance of having tangible office space with employees gathering to discuss plans and ideas, but our Monday to Friday routines might change. Twitter recently announced that all of its staff could work from home for “forever” should they so choose, so if a company as large as Twitter can handle it, why can’t yours?
Perhaps it is time to reassess what is “normal” for our working week and trial some new ideas. Maybe pairing set office days, one or two days a week, where everyone gathers for essential meetings or training, with working from home is the way forward.
This model will also help companies to maintain social distancing once people return to the office, where they could stager employees office days to limit the number of people in the space at one time. Large building operators might even adjust their business models to allow office spaces to be rented on certain days for certain teams.
These are unprecedented times and this lockdown makes for the perfect chance to rearrange, readjust and reconsider what our working lives, and particularly the lives of working mothers, look like.
This article comes from Click Offices, a serviced office agent specialising in office space in London and Dublin.