How can working mothers adapt to a new work-life balance during COVID-19?

Debbie Lentz, President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components and the Electrocomponents Group 

Mum juggling childcare and working from homeWith the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the way we work, people around the world have had to transition to working from home rather than the office, and are likely to continue to do so for some time yet.

However, with different distractions that can impact our productivity, and little separation between work and home, it is often challenging to find a balance when both work-life and home-life are blurred into one.

An additional layer of complexity is added for those who also have children and families to look after, as they try to adapt to life in a pandemic alongside these extra responsibilities. According to the Office of National Statistics, in April to June 2019, 3 in 4 mothers with dependent children were in work in the UK – highlighting the high number of women who are now facing these further challenges.

Although adapting to this new work-life balance may not be an easy task, it is certainly very possible.

Debbie Lentz, President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components and the Electrocomponents Group, is a mother of two children alongside holding a senior position at the FTSE 250 company as well as a non-executive Director, so is therefore no stranger to the challenges that come with both of these important roles.

Below, Debbie shares insights and tips for working mothers in business who are learning to adapt to a new work-life balance.

Communicate any challenges with management

It may not be easy to discuss personal challenges and struggles with line managers, but it is worth remembering that as management, leadership teams have a duty of care for team members and are the best people to turn to for support.

Debbie explains:

“It’s important to remember that none of us are alone in feeling these challenges – many women and mothers are facing the same work-life balance difficulties, given the unsettling changes to schools and remote working.

Whatever challenges you’re facing – whether that’s a result of working from home for the first time, or juggling childcare with working hours, if you don’t mention these problems as they arise, a solution will be harder to find.”

Whilst lockdown had its own challenges for mothers trying to juggle home-schooling with their own work, as we transition out of lockdown additional pressures such as the school run and ensuring children are comfortable outside of the home can also come into play. For those in single parent homes, this is undoubtedly heightened.

However, employers should be accommodating and sensitive to all of these areas.

Debbie continues:

“It’s important to remember that you, as a working mother, have support. Make sure to let your manager know and reach out for help.

The workplace has progressed significantly in recent years, with more of a focus now on having a strong work-life balance, so your employer is likely to be as supportive as possible to ensure you can get your job done well whilst balancing home life.

Working hours that give flexibility for the school run and managing to-do lists to prevent tasks spilling into personal time are both areas that can be discussed with line managers to make working life a little easier.

Boundaries are essential for dividing work and home

As our homes are now not only where we seek personal downtime, but also our workplaces, it is essential to create boundaries that allow us to fully and effectively switch off at the end of the day – but without an evening commute to create that divide, we now risk any issues trickling into our personal lives.

Debbie shares some ways that this can be handled:

“Make sure to utilise any areas in your home that can now be set up as a home office. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending money on new equipment, the importance is creating a dedicated area for work to take place, away from communal family areas. 

However, if you aren’t able to do this, make a clear distinction between the working day, and after-work time. Physically pack away your work tools, out of sight, until you begin working the next day. Without an official end to the working day, your work-life balance will be negatively affected.

“Be sure to speak to your employer about the possibility of a working from home budget – or if you can claim back on expenses – to purchase equipment that can help with posture and prevent back pain. As working from home is likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future, it’s vital to avoid causing damage to your posture by working in inappropriate conditions”.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) “will consider claims from employees working at home due to coronavirus measures if their usual workplace is closed”, which is useful for working parents to bear in mind.

Find a new approach to face-to-face time

Face-to-face time is something that many of us took for granted prior to the pandemic.

Although Zoom fatigue has become a new challenge during this period of working from home, having strong communication channels between you, your line manager and your team is still essential. Without open communication to-do lists, and pressure, can quickly mount up.

Debbie comments:

“As I’m sure many people agree, in the pre-COVID-19 world, video calls were something many of us avoided – but they’re now one of the most effective ways to communicate not only with colleagues, but also family and friends.

“However, it’s critical that you’re utilizing face-to-face time or, at the very least, regular phone calls to keep up to date with your team and line manager in particular. At the moment, it’s much harder for managers to monitor employee happiness and struggles, so ensure this communication is frequent in order to discuss workload, wellbeing and any challenges inside or outside work.”

It’s also important to communicate with colleagues who you would usually spend downtime with during the work day – whether at the coffee machine or the lunch table. Research has revealed that socialising with co-workers can boost morale without sacrificing productivity, so it’s key to ensure morale is high even when working from home.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted our work-life balance and created new challenges for working parents, but it is still possible to maintain a good work-life balance. From turning to line managers for support, to adapting our surroundings to meet our new needs, there are numerous ways that working mothers can manage the many elements of their lives both in the short and long term.

Debbie LentzAbout the author

Debbie Lentz joined Electrocomponents plc as the President of Global Supply Chain in 2017. Debbie is responsible for leading the further development of the Group’s supply chain capability to provide an innovative and sustainable market-leading service for customers and suppliers.

RS Components is a trading brand of Electrocomponents plc, a global omni-channel solutions partner for industrial customers and suppliers who are involved in designing, building or maintaining industrial equipment and facilities. We offer more than 500,000 industrial and electronic products, sourced from over 2,500 leading suppliers, and provide a wide range of value-added services to over one million customers. With operations in 32 countries, we ship more than 50,000 parcels a day.

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