Your daughter has a recital at 7.
You need to cook dinner for the family before you go.
Your son refuses to wear anything but his superman costume.
And you have a big meeting today, in-office.
Scenes like this were all too common before the pandemic. This scenario would likely have ended with you rushing home from the office at 5:30 in a panic. We’d bet that your son even got his way and wore the costume to the recital.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 75% of mothers and 95% of fathers work full-time. Before hybrid work and remote options became the norm, parents were desperately trying to balance a healthy professional life with a meaningful personal life.
Today, a more equitable work-life balance isn’t just possible, it’s a reality.
While the beginning of the pandemic was characterized by near-complete remote work, as we continue to make strides with vaccinations more companies are moving to a hybrid work model.
For working parents, this new approach to work has the potential to be a major game changer. But before that call can be made we need to explore the good and bad.
Hybrid model advantages for parents
Over the past 18 months, working remotely meant that parents could keep up on household tasks like laundry and cleaning throughout the day, rather than waiting until evenings or weekends to do them and missing valuable time with their children in the process.
Families also embraced cooking at home and spending more time together outside with the time saved on commuting to and from the office.
Angie Russell, an aide to Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, summed up the behavior shift in an interview with The Washington Post, saying, “I’m not coming home, being stressed out on the commute and then kind of throwing something together and, you know, drinking my pain away.”
C. Nicole Mason, chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told the Post that moments like this helped companies see employees as people who have lives outside the office, rather than worker bees who fit the family obligations around their careers.
“We have a moment of reckoning,” Mason said. “And it’s not only an opening, it’s an opportunity … to reimagine a workplace that is actually more reflective of our lives. It’s a shame it took a pandemic, but it would’ve taken years to get to this point. Actually, I don’t think we ever would have gotten here.”
Hybrid model disadvantages for parents
It’s not all flowers and daisies though. Inequity for women is still a prevalent issue among working parents; as is, responsibility overload.
During the early days of the pandemic, working parents were hit particularly hard as they tried to balance being full-time employees, full-time teachers, and full-time parents — all from the same house. This led to burnout among many and an exit from the job force for some.
Then there's the issue of inequality between genders. Women are still increasingly taking on the brunt of the work in the home. Just take a look at this data from The Wall Street Journal:
- Women account for 54% of job losses in the pandemic
- In September 2020 alone, about four times more women left the workforce than men.
- Working mothers spend 30% more time on housework than working fathers.
While the option of remote work opens the door for more flexibility, it’s not a perfect solution for everyone. But a hybrid workplace strategy that empowers working parents to choose the space that best suits their working needs may be the answer.
A future of work that works for everyone
Now that working parents have seen the benefits hybrid work can bring to their lives and their careers, it’s time for organizations to put more emphasis on choice for all employees.
Doing so creates a more equitable workplace where employees are valued for the work they do, not where they do it from.
When it comes to working parents, policy considerations shouldn't start and end with hybrid work.
Consider re-evaluating workplace benefits and make changes that fit the new world. For example, money previously spent on catered lunches in the office could now be used to organize a summer camp for employee kids like John Hancock did last summer.
Kathy Henry, chief human resources officer and general counsel at Boston’s Eastern Bank, summed up this moment best in a recent interview with The Boston Globe.
“We are talking about things that never could be a possibility. That’s amazing to me. I don’t want to miss the opportunity — not just for me, but for every working mother,” Henry said. “We can, and we will, do better. That is one of the unexpected outcomes of COVID.”