While Work from home comes with many perks like flexible schedules, better work life balance and the biggest one is saving time and money on commute, it also came with certain unique obstacles

Covid 19 has been an unprecedented situation and threat to humanity, with number of positive cases and deaths increasing each passing day. There is uncertainty around how long this situation will last and what will be the overall economic and societal impact of this virus. To deal with the situation, governments, organisations, and individuals have all taken precautionary steps, one of them being compliant with the enforced lockdown and working from home.

Working remotely or work from home from prolonged duration like this one has been unprecedented in India Inc, barring a few organisations. Hence, when the lockdown began, most corporates and employees struggled with the concept. That’s because the “monitor and control “culture of corporates, which was a way of working, came in question, and the new way of working demanded empathy, empowerment, and new governance models.

While Work from home comes with many perks like flexible schedules, better work life balance and the biggest one is saving time and money on commute, it also came with certain unique obstacles. Some employees felt isolated, demotivated, unfocused, unable to establish a work routine given the distractions at home.

Interestingly, Work from home put working women in a unique situation. With lack of domestic help at the time of lock down, and gender norms still deeply entrenched in the society, many working women felt the personal and professional boundaries blurring, and as a result felt stretched and stressed.Additionally, they have had to grapple with possible biases in the organisation and managers that leant towards a belief that during WFH, women would be less productive.

Let’s try and decode this conundrum.

Yes, gender norms are deeply entrenched, and women employees are feeling stretched, yet, this has no bearing what so ever on their capability or their productivity. In fact, it is at this time that organisations should take steps to bust the unconscious bias that might be creeping in and help women manage their work and home responsibilities through simple policies. For instance, no meetings to be scheduled between 1 and 2 pm. Or no calls to be made post 6 pm unless an emergency. And this can apply for employees of all genders.

In times like these, when way of working is transforming in so many ways and there is no option other than working from home, it also becomes the responsibility of an employee to ensure that productivity doesn’t get hampered while working remotely.Hence communicating clearly with stakeholders at work and at home, setting expectations right is something all employees need to do. It is also critical for employees and managers of both genders to be mindful of gender norms, stereotyping and unconscious bias which might creep into our conversations. Regardless of how privileged we are, we need to be mindful of the fact that it is always the women whose productivity is questioned because in our society we are accustomed to a mindset of attributing a woman to household chores, and a man to earning bread for the family.

And lets look at some real heroes! “Women leaders are doing a disproportionately great job at handling the pandemic. So why aren’t there more of them?” asks CNN. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, stood up early and told the people of Germany that this is a serious bug. She introduced 124 measures to block the spread without having to resort to the lockdowns. Iceland, under the leadership of Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, is offering free coronavirus testing to all its citizens and instituted a thorough tracking system that means they haven’t had to lock down or shut schools or other services.

Even before the spread of virus, working women used to handle home and office responsibilities together. Yes, working from home a woman can face many disruptions like taking care of kids or elderly or preparing food for them, but why can this be not shared between all family members? New reality will need us to think differently, do differently, and definitely question gender norms if we wish to emerge as winners from this crisis.

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