Back in January when I started the theme of #rebalancing 2020 it was very much in the context of business as usual. My plan was to write about strategies for tackling issues such as the growing #AlwaysOn workplace culture; and the challenges of getting employers to agree flexible working at senior levels. Then lockdown happened. In its wake an increasing number of online blogs are praising the rapid shift to home working and predicting that post pandemic this will become the ‘new normal’. I disagree.
For many working parents (and mothers in particular) the current situation is not a golden age of flexible working but their worst nightmare come to pass.
It’s the fear that lurked in the minds of many. What if the whole juggling act falls apart? Suddenly it came to pass; and left many women feeling exhausted as the challenges of combining work and care became intensified. The consequential risk is that they’re pushed into making poor choices. Let me explain.
I spent the first couple of weeks of lockdown reading Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. It’s a stark and well evidenced reminder of two indisputable facts. The first is that women carry out three quarters of the world’s unpaid caring work. Invisible work they juggle with outdated workplace requirements as they attempt to build careers. The second is the under-representation of women in all walks of life; including across all workplace sectors and levels. Which has huge negative implications for both their quality of life and for the global economy.
Right now, when the world needs more women’s voices, those voices may be lost. Women themselves are becoming tired of constantly fixing those things employers continue to ignore. Such as how to balance all that unpaid caring with inflexible working hours and equally inflexible expectations. On social media mothers are talking about giving up and finding more satisfying work that fits better with family life. Typically that requires lowering their sights and downshifting. If that’s you I urge you not to give up the career you’ve worked so hard to attain.
Indeed, the current crisis could turn out to be a golden opportunity. There’s talk about the likely need for employers to reduce staffing levels. If your job is on the line, now is the time to make a counter proposal and suggest you work reduced hours. Use my free workbook to craft a reduced load role that makes best use of your skills and keeps you in the game. What have you got to lose?
If you’ve been furloughed enjoy the time with your children making memories to keep and treasure. If you have some time to yourself why not spend part of it planning for better work-life balance once the crisis is over? You’re the woman I had in mind when I started writing this blog back in 2016 and there’s plenty of content here to help your journey.
Whatever your circumstances, stay centred and practice self-compassion. Now is not the moment for drastic changes. We’re all doing our best to navigate our way through uncertain times. And in that uncertainty lies the potential for new ways of working that bring both better work life balance and better gender balance. I’ll be writing more about that in next week’s blog.