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Strong, resilient, dedicated, caring, multitalented: Odds are one (or more) words describe a working parent in your life. Balancing the roles of parent, teacher, chef, housekeeper, chauffeur, employee, volunteer, and partner, parents are doing more than ever before (if that even seems possible).

And while all parents took on increased caregiving roles during the pandemic, COVID disproportionately reshaped mothers’ relationships with their families and jobs. Whether they redesigned their work around irregular childcare schedules or left their careers to support their families at home, women are still dealing with the impact of the past two years. 

The “Double Shift” 

Even in the twenty-first century, women are more likely than their male partners to assume the role of default caregiver. When there are school closures, sick days, or gaps in childcare, only 40 percent of mothers (and 27 percent of mothers of children under the age of 5) can maintain their usual work hours, compared to just under 60 percent of men, according to the National Women’s Law Center.  

With remote work thrown into the mix, many moms spend more time caring for their homes and children on top of their job responsibilities. Seventy-five percent of working mothers said they spent at least an additional one to two hours on housework and childcare during the pandemic. In comparison, according to McKinsey 15 percent reported they had added at least five extra hours. Men were also likely to spend some additional time per day outside of work tasks, but the burden was far more likely to fall on their female partners.

All this extra time spent on childcare and housework comes at a personal cost. Fifty-three percent of working mothers get less than six hours of sleep per night (far below the recommended seven to eight hours), and almost a quarter has no time for self-care acts like eating healthily, exercising, or connecting with friends, reported Kuli Kuli in conjunction with the University of California and Northeastern University.

Women of color, women with disabilities, mothers below the poverty line, those with young children, and single mothers were more likely to experience increased stress and imbalance in their personal and professional lives. For many moms, this was unsustainable, causing them to reduce their work hours, look for a new job, or leave the workforce altogether.  

A Look Back: Women, the Pandemic, and Unemployment 

In the early days of the pandemic, women’s jobs were hit the hardest across the globe due to several factors. First, women are more likely to work in the sectors impacted the most by the initial lockdown (such as retail and hospitality), and they’re more likely to hold part-time and gig jobs, which had higher termination rates. And as discussed above, women are more likely to take on the burden of unpaid childcare.

While the job economy has stabilized over the past two years, women are still disproportionately missing from the labor force. Since February 2020, the US has experienced a net loss of almost 1.6 million jobs, of which 70 percent were held by women, according to the National Women’s Law Council. While the overall unemployment rate for women dropped to 3.3 percent in March 2022, 872,000 women have left the workforce entirely since the pandemic’s beginning.

Despite these losses, women accounted for 63 percent of the jobs added to the economy in March 2022. In education and healthcare, where 76.8 percent of the workforce is female, women gained 98.1 percent of all new jobs added during the month. Unemployment also fell for women in the UK, and Canada showed record-high employment rates in the past month.

There’s still a lot of room for women in the workforce, but employers must offer flexibility and compassion to appeal to working mothers.

Here's why women make excellent leaders 

5 Ways to Support Working Moms 

Companies can improve the experience of working mothers in many ways, from childcare solutions to addressing bias in the workplace. (Although, it’s important to note that resources should be available to parents of all genders!) Here are five tips to attract and retain professional moms. 

  1. Flexible schedules: Give mothers some wiggle room in their schedules, including the option to work remotely when needed or adjust their hours around the school day. Bonus tip: Normalize flexibility for all employees so that non-parents don’t feel like they’re missing out on work-life balance.
  2. Parental leave: Providing flexible leave time separate from vacation days means parents don’t have to choose between work and taking care of their children. Offering paid leave to both parents (and encouraging them to take it) gives moms a break and allows them to focus on their careers. 
  3. Childcare policies: Offering subsidies for daycare or summer camp, providing childcare facilities, or access to early education has the double benefit of giving children a head start in life and giving parents peace of mind so they can focus on their jobs.  
  4. Intersectional approaches: It’s important to acknowledge and address the additional challenges facing single mothers and mothers of color. Listen to what these women need and foster an inclusive culture with an emphasis on allyship and mentorship to make sure they feel heard and appreciated. Bonus tip: Create safe spaces for conversation online. Mitel hosted a Twitter thread for International Women’s Day that generated lots of good advice and awareness from women in tech. 
  5. Opportunities for returning mothers: Many women feel nervous about returning to work full-time after having children. Create opportunities for mothers returning to work by addressing your hiring process and offering training, “returnships,” or on-ramp programs.

Create Flexible Solutions for Parents with the Right Tech 

We’ve previously discussed the importance of creating an inclusive company culture in the hybrid era, but there are additional ways to build flexible remote work solutions or hybrid work solutions that support working mothers. Modern unified communications technology makes it easier than juggling the weekly sports carpool. 

With 94 percent of women knowledge workers reporting in Gartner’s 2021 Hybrid and Return to Work Survey that they want to work remotely at least one day per week, there’s a clear preference for hybrid work schedules. To make sure women who choose to work from home have an equitable experience to their in-person colleagues, here are a few tips for fostering inclusivity: 

  1. Establish new norms for meetings: Whether creating huddle rooms dedicated to video meetings or ensuring that everyone has the right technology to join conference calls, make an effort to give all attendees the same experience at home or in the office. Try to limit the number and length of meetings to keep everyone focused and productive. 
  2. Collaborate from anywhere: Collaboration apps that work equally well on the web and mobile devices make it easy to check in with your team no matter where they are. Letting moms respond to messages from the school pick-up line means they can still be a part of the team even when they’re away from their desks. 
  3. Work in the cloud: With easily shared documents and readily accessible data, moving your projects to the cloud lets your team work together securely from any device. Break down silos by storing all files in the same place and remove communication barriers with the option to switch between voice, video, and chat seamlessly.

The important part of finding sustainable solutions for working moms (and other caregivers) is to listen to their needs and do your best to make them feel like they’re valued members of your team. Learn more about how Mitel can help your business provide mothers with the tools they need to nurture their careers and their families. 

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