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Top tips for women to manage WFH

A year into the pandemic, it’s clear that much of the brunt of job losses, remote schooling, and other pandemic-related hardships have fallen on the shoulders of women — specifically mothers and women of color.

More than 2.3 million women have left the workforce since February 2020, and economists are predicting the gender wage gap will eventually widen by 5 percentage points as women take on different roles. But even in households where two partners work full-time, women are more likely to take on extra household and child care duties.

“In many families, we fall back into very traditional gender roles,” said Rhiannon Staples, the chief marketing officer at Hibob, a people management platform. “Many people have not been able to turn to their parents or their aunts and uncles as they might have historically for help with the children.”

If your day feels like a never-ending slog of juggling multiple responsibilities, here are some tips for working from home and developing your career until the pandemic passes.

Mother working from home with children in background
Mother working from home with children in background (MoMo Productions via Getty Images)

1. Advocate for yourself

Tell your manager what you need to be successful, whether that’s a new desk and computer monitor, reimbursement for internet and phone service, or flexible hours.

“Your manager might not know what you need to be able to balance work and family life,” Staples said, so it’s important to speak up.

2. Adjust your work schedule

Ask your manager about working different hours so you can focus on one priority at a time. This works well if you and a partner can tag team the child care duties. Maybe you’ll work 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., while your partner helps the kids with homeschool, for instance, and then you switch off.

3. Touch base with your family

Talk with your partner and kids every morning to go over work calendars, important phone calls, and virtual school sessions. Come up with a plan of attack to make sure the kids have support, but you have the solitude you need to get your work done.

4. Keep the ‘office’ in home office

Hardworking Young Woman Drawing Sketches And Using PC Computer
Hardworking Young Woman Drawing Sketches And Using PC Computer (Pekic via Getty Images)

“Treat your job like an office scenario as much as you can,” Staples said, which means putting boundaries between work and home life.

If possible, set up your home office in a private space, log in (and out) at a consistent time, and don’t let household duties seep into your work hours. Keeping your desk organized and getting dressed can also help you feel more put-together and confident.

5. Maintain a work routine

If you worked in an office before the pandemic, you might be used to chatting with co-workers, taking a coffee break, and logging off for an hour at lunch.

“You lose that when you’re remote,” Staples said. “But find ways to work that back into your schedule, to give your brain that mental break that you need.”

6. Continue developing your career

Woman at home during pandemic lockdown having video call on her laptop. Young woman video calling using a laptop.
Woman at home during pandemic lockdown having video call on her laptop. Young woman video calling using a laptop. (Luis Alvarez via Getty Images)

Building new skills and strengthening your network are critical steps to take, whether you’ve cut your work hours or left the job force altogether.

“This time will pass,” Staples said, and in the meantime, women should sharpen their skills to stay competitive. Some ideas:

  • Discuss your career goals with your manager.

  • Ask for stretch assignments.

  • Pitch new ideas to help the company grow.

  • Connect with others in your field — you might later rely on them when job-hunting.

  • Find a mentor.

  • Check out online training courses — think Coursera, Udemy and edX — to help you develop new skills.

7. Don’t forget about self-care

Whether it’s finding time to exercise, setting up Zoom calls with friends and family, or taking a few days off, self-care is a crucial part of your mental wellness right now. Women are less likely to ask for it, but Staples encourages people to use paid time off to recharge — even if it’s just a few days.

“It’s a really important part of managing through the last half of this marathon that we’ve been on,” Staples said.

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