Radical Changes needed in setting Guidelines for WFH for women
Women are Rockstars! In the absence of domestic help during this pandemic, women are juggling Work from Home and Work at Home. They are also helping raise or support their families globally. This is happening globally, not just one state or country.
This brings up the question of, do we need to have separate #WFH guidelines for females?
Mr. Sanjeev Bhatia
CEO, Knowbility Ventures
Mr. Naga Siddharth
Head – People and Culture at SuprDaily
Ms. Monica Kapadia Mehta
Executive Vice President – Wadhwani Foundation
Ms. Pooja Maheshwari Salwan
Founder – Blue Ribbon Academy
Ms. Rashmi Mandloi
Managing Partner & Head D&I Practice – BeyonDiversity Foundation
Ms. Nitu Mohanka
Founder – WErise
Mr. Ravi Kikan
Growth & Marketing Head – ZingHR (A Global HCM Solution)
Set the tone of the discussion as to discuss the various difficulties that are being faced by everyone, especially women during this lockdown; who are trying to strike a work life and family balance.
Delivered his opening notes, wherein he mentioned that he conducted a survey for working married women, and the results do emphasize that workload has increased in lockdown as compared to pre-Covid.
The summary of the survey indicated:
Below is the summary of the survey:
74% women responded saying workload has gone up in absence of domestic help
23% said husbands don’t help them at home, whereas 42% said they receive help from their husbands
76% felt the necessity of having Work from Home guidelines
61% want to have flexible working hours
Many emphasized on empathy from organizations in terms of working hours and meetings, and general guidelines irrespective of gender
Expressed his views on having the policies. Everyone needs to be aware during as well as post the lockdown, about the policies that we want to build. Considering lockdown, all members of the family are hot due to absence of domestic help. As we are moving towards the end of lockdown, we need to consider the post life situation. Covid has been a University of Hard Knocks, an eye opener about valuing people of low authority like laborers and house help. Covid has brought about the realization that they are not under the peripheral vision, but are supporting you from beneath and you are standing probably because of them. This brings across empathy, which in Indian ethos means Dharma. Tyranny of generalization has been plaguing the administration and HR; as India as a country is different where even job descriptions don’t work and role is important.
We need to reflect on what exactly serves the customers. Like many big brands are named differently in China as compared to other parts of the world. It means having a perspective that makes me as well as the other person happy. So how long will HR hide behind the generalization? Today we are looking more at personalization than customization. Covid has let people leave behind their control obsession and risk averseness. In India everything is mutually dependent, given that I’m unsure if we can come up with policies that don’t decrease productivity.
Had a different perspective on this topic. According to her the past 2-3 months has only exasperated what already existed in the community. Drawing from her own experience as well as other females’ with whom she interacts; she mentioned, “Our community has certain inbuilt expectations from women, like responsibilities of home. I feel women go through guilt when we feel we are not able to do certain things that are expected out of us. Personally I have been able to convince myself that I cannot be perfect at everything. I need to have a balance between my personal and work time”
As per her this is a good time for women to start making everything inclusive. With or without policies, it’s important for women to bring in the inclusive mindset to bring in the work balance.
Expanded the discussion by agreeing with Ms. Monica’s views. As women we need to get everyone onboard regardless of lockdown or post Covid. The euphoria is that husbands and kids might have promised to help with work, but now the ownership is back to women to figure out home-schooling and rest of the house work.
Communication needs to be transparent with female employees and expectations need to be set. In her opinion, prioritizing and not multitasking will be a long term solution. Timelines also need to be discussed at home. Everyone has lost the differentiation between work days and holidays.
She quoted Bazner, ‘’you have to be more respectful of others and try to avoid conflict situations by monitoring your own behavior. You have to be more honest and lenient to others but also have to control yourself ’’
I hope there will be more gender equality rather than diversity.
Brought her perspective to the plate, where she mentioned; the results received from Mr. Sanjeev’s survey were transactional in nature. These are fixable issues as that work will get delegated post Covid. Many organizations are considering various aspects like liquid working. She agreed with Mr. Naga’s perspective of showing trust and empathy towards employees; as well as Ms. Monica and Ms. Pooja’s opinion on mindset needs to start changing. Women tend to thrive to become perfectionists and end up killing themselves while achieving it.
During lockdown, especially for women, they are taking more responsibilities, perfection and guilt is leading to burnout resulting in mental stress. Apart from these, there has been a rise in sexual harassment and 47% increase in domestic abuse. This makes it necessary for us to have a country wide policy to help and support these women.
Ms. Nitu Mohanka shared her perspective next, agreeing with most of the views of other panelists. Finally there has been an acknowledgement that women have more responsibilities at home, which has been imbibed in our culture. She feels rather than expecting others to understand, women need to be stubborn and do what they feel is right. She personally maintains a calendar to track her work throughout the day.
How to contribute to work as ever before and still manage family sentiments, household chores etc while WFH?
My belief is that it is important to have fewer, but focused hours of work when you are WFH to ensure that the quality of output at work is really superior. Also ensure that we only accept deadlines that we can actually deliver on. Finally, have a very transparent relationship with your manager for setting expectations.
I would suggest that women should stop feeling guilty about not being able to give your house the kind of attention it’s seeking every day. We can’t be perfect. Everyone is adjusting to the New Normal. It’s about time we help our kids/ family be self sufficient and work like equals.
It’s all about guilt. Am I doing good enough? There is a theme of wanting to do it all in this question. Can I do all of it, like nothing has happened and I’m working from home? You need to ask yourself ‘do I have to do everything that I was doing earlier during normal times?’ or ‘how do I adapt to this situation and work with stakeholders with changed expectations?’
Everybody reacts differently to situations. A bias already exists which says, ‘A woman is the nurturer and a man is the bread-winner’, where women are expected to resolve domestic issues and men to take care of finances. This patriarchy exists and we are unable to think beyond it, even when the world is moving towards equality. We need to think on how we can change this mindset as a community together. Also 72% of the women do not speak out for themselves.
In agreement with Ms. Rashmi’s perspective. Yes that’s a wonderful point.
Do we raise boys and girls equally? Do you think a 25 year old female will suddenly not be confident? Maybe the instances in childhood lead to the lack of self belief.
Why do we ask a girl to get water for the relatives and not the boy? It’s a small thing, but this builds momentum and the buy ends up becoming a husband and father, and the girl, woman and wife. It remains in your mind and it’s subconscious.
I agree with the perspective that it’s all in the mindset. In my recent experiences, a senior working female shared her helplessness of not being able to concentrate on work in absence of household help. She has the same mindset that my co-panelists have been discussing. She approached her family members for help and they readily came onboard. Everything fell in place after she spoke for herself. So women need to talk, everything will start with you.
We are talking largely about a women workforce who has a male support at home to fall back emotionally. How about single moms, women who are not married but stay with their brother’s family also young women who are still not married?
Situations are different for everyone. But we should not stray away from focus; we need to put foot down and set the expectations right. Without clear communication, stress and gaps will always exist.
It’s a different situation for single mothers. Single women who are staying with others or their family should be able to better balance their work as well as help at home. For working women living in joint families, the mindset will have to be changed and support from family will be essential. I’m lucky to have a supportive family who takes care of my kids while I’m working.
One important thing required when creating such policies is personalization. Every person’s life is different. If an organization can personalize their HR Software and Tech products as per the customer needs, then why can’t we personalize the policies for our employees? We also need to think of men who live alone along with women. It’s time to acknowledge that we need to have such policies.
I agree with Mr. Naga, that we need policies for different people. People leave organizations when they do not feel a sense of belonging. Organization needs to support us to have policies and support for employees. At the same time we need to negotiate and ask employers for it. NASSCOM data says, out of the total hires in IT there are 48% dropout rates of female employees in 3 years. The reasons are many, one including marriage. But data says half of them did not even check with their managers about a possible transfer in another city. It’s important to speak up and be confident.
Organisations have moved from Basic to Add ons to CTC, and now they have come up with a bouquet of choices of taxations.they now need to be more empathetic on what all they can offer to the employees. In my stint with TATA Steel, there was an option of choosing what my requirements were. Even Facebook has started an internal website for their organization, to make employees more inclusive.
POSH in context of work from home
I’m part of POSH committees in some organizations. Sexual harassment defined by the law includes physical, verbal, virtual, emails, chat boxes, WhatsApp messages etc, where a woman feels unsafe and complains in her office.
As per the act, the workplace is defined as wherever the employee is, if he/she is in office, travelling for work, in cabs, everything comes under the act. In lockdown, where everyone is working from home, home becomes the workplace.
From a man’s perspective what is aligned to POSH in the context of WFH?
He should be respectful of the woman; because the law clearly states that if the woman has felt unsafe and has complained then it’s sexual harassment.
As a manager don’t accept anything that you would not accept against your daughter or sister.
I agree with Ms. Rashmi, that we need to think of connotations like jokes or comments now that we are working from home.
Insights on how to compartmentalize so as not to feel stretched
Men and women need different customization and personalization. if compartmentalization means proper switch between work and personal lives, I feel we as society are not mature enough to support that. It might happen in the next 4-5 years.
The policy should be applicable to both genders and companies should be able to frame the working hours and meeting hours. Long meetings need to be avoided. Currently we need to delegate the work which was previously done collaboratively and then collaborate.
Is there a situation an employer can change the role of a women employee post knowing about her pregnancy?
This has a lot to do with empathy of the organizations. You can offer options like early goings, late comings, few hours off; but it’s essential to ask that employee what are her requirements during pregnancy as well as post birth and how far the organization can go to accommodate them. It’s all about the values and culture on which the organizations are built on.
You cannot change anyone’s role only because she is pregnant; especially without asking her. The regular state labor laws apply here.
Balancing the need of dedicated time for your toddler vs the mandatory work and work hours and Closing Notes
Previously we used to talk about flexible hours, but now in my opinion we need to roll between fixed hours and variable hours. Like while working from the office, many women leave early and then login again from home. There is a need to maintain that balance in WFH as well.
It depends on multiple factors. If you’re in a senior leadership role, like I work for an office based out of San Francisco, so due to different time zones, I’m on late evening calls twice or thrice a week. But I do have the flexibility to take 3-4 hours off during the day because I need to be up at night. So flexibility and customization is important; you cannot be working 24 hours a day.
Agreedwith Ms. Monica’s views. Customization and flexibility are required, along with what the woman wants. Organizations need to judge employees based on their output and productivity rather than working hours.
Companies need to start caring rather than curing people with policies. As long as you care, answers will come on their own; it’s no longer about inflicting policies on employees.
Based on the survey, 61% have asked for flexible working hours and I think we need to honor that. It’s necessary to have mandatory working hours, and no exclusivity when it comes to both the genders. Both are working from home, and even men are trying to change their mindsets and we need to give them a chance. We need to have equity.
I think it’s important to understand that there cannot be a generic bookmark to this. But it’s an essential point that needs to be addressed for a realistic point of view. Women who are suffering from too much workload need to speak out to their managers. If you don’t speak the answer will always be no. Expected working hours are going haphazardly, they have gone up to 11 hours. Our survey suggests that many women do not understand that they are burning out themselves. So they need to be addressed to.
Covid-19 has had a negative effect not only on the economy but almost all the industries and households. Yes, there will be post Covid-19 effects but it is not something we cannot fight. With the right strategy and right state of mind, we can survive the effects and come out stronger.
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