Working from home during a pandemic isn't work-life flexibility, it's survival. In an ideal world parents would be able to work while having someone else—another parent, a grandparent, a nanny or day care—watch their children.
But nothing about this time is ideal and most parents who are working from home are doing it with kids on their laps or beside them on their own laptops. We're trying to send emails while setting up distance learning and trying to take meetings after setting up class Zoom sessions. It's exhausting...and thankfully, bosses at some companies recognize this.
Last week Google announced it is giving workers a day off on May 22 "to address work-from-home-related burnout during the coronavirus pandemic," Reuters reports. Motherly is making a similar move, asking staff to take a day off on May 15.
Across the country, workers are reporting high rates of burnout and stress and companies that can provide an extra day off should do it, now.
A recent survey by Eagle Hill Consulting, conducted online by Ipsos, found that "U.S. employees are less engaged, less productive, and less positive about their career due to COVID-19." Nearly half (45%) of those polled say they're burned out.
The worst part is that 36% of those surveyed said the organization they work for isn't doing anything to help with employee burnout.
"Employee burnout was a problem before the coronavirus global pandemic, and now the risks of burnout are painfully acute during this crisis," says Melissa Jezior, president and chief executive officer of Eagle Hill Consulting.
"The mistake many leaders make is treating burnout as a personnel issue when it's really an organizational issue," Jezior explains. "It's incumbent on employers to create an organizational culture that supports employees during times of crisis and avoids burnout when we're not facing an emergency."
Some companies were able to weather the transition to remote work better than others, but that doesn't mean this isn't a stressful time for employees, even if they are used to working from home. Motherly's team has always been 100% remote, and while the pandemic hasn't kept staff from going to an office it has changed our lives in so many ways. As Motherly co-founder Jill Koziol told the company in a meeting on May 11, our workdays are longer now, interrupted by the needs of our children and the new responsibilities parents took on when the world shifted.
"We added May 15th as a Motherly company-wide holiday to provide our staff with some time and space to address personal and professional related burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic. " Koziol explains.
She continues: "These are intense times for us all and much of our staff have cancelled personal time off during this crisis to ensure we meet business challenges. As a token of gratitude we established this bonus holiday, closing the business for the day and creating a three day weekend, to ensure all staff take the time off to focus on family and personal care."
Koziol's plan for some extra three day weekends makes sense to fans of the four-day workweek. Robert Yuen is the CEO and co-founder of Monograph, a software company supporting architectural project management. In a recent piece for Fast Company Yuen explained that his company has always had four-day workweeks: "Our team members work 32-hour weeks, and new employees are able to decide with the team which days they'll take off."
He continues: "The four-day workweek is partially about productivity, but it's also about the health and well-being of employees. This pandemic specifically brings workers' wellness front and center with special consideration for the anxieties that are being felt across the globe right now. Allotting employees an extra day a week to take care of themselves and their families can only help personally and professionally. It is important not to forget that the team is made up of real people living real lives. Employees should be encouraged to look out for each other and themselves, and employers should play an integral role in helping staff manage their stress levels."
For mothers, especially, balancing responsibilities and work stress right now is incredibly difficult. Motherly's third annual State of Motherhood Survey results shows mothers are living in an acute state of burnout, and we know that the COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on mamas' mental health with 74% of mothers reporting they feel mentally worse since it began.
There are so many things about this pandemic that we can't control, but giving employees time to recharge their mental health is something that companies can and should consider.
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