By Rose Cunningham
Mum was upstairs working when I had the idea for this article. Downstairs, Dad was making my brother and I some afternoon tea. It was then that I realised, that pre-covid era, it would typically be the opposite way around in many households. I was left wondering, how has working from home affected women's roles in the workforce?
For so long, women have been expected to stay at home and be a carer for someone-child or parent. If these women wanted a job, it would often mean that they would need to work from home. Despite the fact that people must work from home for various reasons, work from home has often been looked down upon. People who worked from home were often perceived to be lazy or selfish. Many times, this perception can easily lead to sexism and people believing that women are unfit for leadership. By working from home frequently, it can also create the perception that women aren't devoted to their job. Now that working from home has become “the norm” men are also being forced into the situation that many women have been in many times. They are experiencing the challenges and rewards of working from home.
Working from home can mean that families are provided with more flexibility. In a time where people must excel at their work, household jobs and family commitments can be divided equally. Responsibilities are shared and the time spent doing jobs is spread more evenly. One parent can pick up a child or bake with them while the mother or woman of the home can catch up with their workload, which in the long run results in more time to spend with loved ones. Women can excel at their jobs and produce work of higher quality than before and for longer, with the time spent travelling, able to be used to work or to have a little more time to relax in the morning or evening.
When you work from home, where would you work? In a cramped space that you don’t like? Or perhaps in your study, where you can see your favourite tree? I believe that most of us would choose to work in the study with the window, or if we don’t like the study, in a place where we feel comfortable and like to work. By working at home, we have the freedom to work wherever we like. We can set up space differently or move around when we are getting the sun in our eyes. Our spaces feel more comfortable and we can relax more easily.
The fact that we are at home means that if there are other family members present, we can interact during our breaks. Socialising has been scientifically proven to increase serotonin, which helps to improve our sleep, digestion and cognitive function. We can talk about our days and see if family members have any ideas or advice for the future. Being with your family can help you to unwind and you may even learn a few interesting facts about what is involved in jobs or any interesting processes.
On the flip side, working from home can come with the responsibility of child supervision. During the covid pandemic, when schools and out of school hours centres closed down, children were remaining at home. While parents were working could end up with the children looking for interaction with their family. Whether they are looking for food or wanting a story read, most children love being around their parents. At young ages, children don’t understand that the adults are working hard to earn money, to ensure that they can continue to live and eat in a comfortable manner. The result of this is that working from home can also be challenging.
Ultimately, while working from home brings its challenges, both partners being home can facilitate a more equal division of home labour. Whilst we have undeniably made progress during the last decade, the fact that in 2017 Harvard law school found that a mere 4.6% of CEOs in America were women, indicates that we still have some way to go before equality between the sexes is reflected in the workforce. Work from home is becoming a norm is one way that we can boost workforce equality by allowing women to have more time to excel in their field.
So whilst Covid-19 impacted many peoples’ lives in a negative way, if something good is to come out of it, perhaps it could be a redressing of the distribution of household responsibilities and more female participation in the workforce. That’s something which I believe we can all agree is something worth striving for.