As coronavirus cases continue to stack up worldwide, women from every walk of life are having to adapt, rethink, and learn to lead in entirely new ways. COVID-19 knows no borders and refuses to recognize the status quo. “Normal” has been suspended and we’ve traded in our commutes and corporate meetings for working from our kitchen tables while simultaneously homeschooling our children. Or we’re scrambling to find childcare and new supports while we head out to our “essential” jobs.
While some of these changes feel extreme, others feel like a gift.
With the incessant media reports on peaks, flattening curves, and downward cycles, the calls to “open up the economy” and “get back to normal” seem deafening. And while normal – with all of its non-essential wonders – sounds like a great idea, there are parts of the new normal in our stay-at-home worlds worth keeping.
It’s long been known that working remotely benefits women. It takes two of the biggest pieces of a woman’s life – work and family – and makes them fit. If you’ve been told that your workplace does not support remote work, yet your laptop has been pinging nonstop since the stay-at-home measures began, it’s obvious that your workplace can support it – at least part time.
Beyond the constraints of the coronavirus, flexibility needs to work, and provide a path to leadership. As we’ve written, “People with adaptable work environments – both men and women – tend to have healthier habits with time for both self-improvement and family and friends, which makes them more productive and efficient when they work. Flexibility doesn’t just benefit women’s work performance. Research has looked at more subjective areas affected by schedule flexibility, including people’s happiness and satisfaction. Studies show that when people can choose to do things, like take their kids to school, sleep in or help their spouse that they’ll enjoy better relationships, a better quality of life, and be happier with their employment.” In other words, some of the benefits you may be experiencing now, could also have a positive impact on you in the future.
Moving forward, employers need to consider making work and family continue to mesh to maintain high-performing employees. Many women, who started out with all the ambition in the world, find themselves stuck in a place they never expected to be. They do not choose to leave their jobs and they are shut out of upper management by the refusal of their bosses to allow them to fit their family life and work life together.
While the majority of us have been at home following state and local mandates, many are actually feeling more connected to neighbors, friends, and distant relatives than they did before the coronavirus. We are reaching out to one another, and making frequent connection a priority through increased phone calls, Zoom happy hours or lunch dates with friends, or via social media.
We’re also tapping into our local communities and neighborhoods in new ways. From mutual aid groups on Facebook, to neighborhood apps, we’re supporting one another, and helping where we can. Live music, arts, and entertainment are also bringing us “together” on various live streams, and we’re not only able to enjoy the performances, we’re able to support our favorite artists.
Then there’s the fact that we’re spending more time with our immediate family than we probably ever have. And while that can be stressful (some days VERY stressful), it can also be rewarding. We have the opportunity to re-connect with our partners, and while we may not have ever intended to homeschool our children, being there for their activities and setting routines in the new normal can benefit them, and you. Whether working on projects together or going on neighborhood “bear hunts” there are plenty of ways to engage with one another and make the most of a difficult situation.
As we start to look at ways to get back to normal, now is a good time to prioritize and define what “normal” should look like. Right now, we have something that is often elusive – time. Spend some of it framing what the next phase looks like for you. Will you work smarter, not harder? Push for increased workplace flexibility? Will you try to spend some of your week working remotely? Will you reframe your ideal work/life balance? Will you continue to prioritize connections with your nearest and dearest, and community at large? We’re all in this together and if we want to benefit from these difficult times, we need to support one another, be clear with our intentions and Look for ways to change crisis into opportunity for a work-life balance that fits us–perfectly.