Podcast Transcriptions

Pursue What Matters

Episode 79: Impact of the Pandemic on Working Mothers

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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
The first studies are coming out with the impact of the pandemic on working mothers. And of course, it’s telling us something that most of us as working mothers have known all along, we are taking a beating.

Dr. Melissa Smith 0:16
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters Podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Wow. So of course, we are, you know, making our way through 2020. And, of course, the hits just keep on coming. I’m sorry to say, of course, this is nothing you don’t already know. But the long night is not over. We’re heading in to winter. And, you know, I think the challenges are going to be with us for a while. I don’t want to break any hearts, I don’t want to get anyone down. But I think it can be really helpful to just pay attention to the challenges that we’re facing. acknowledgement matters, it matters a lot, and having awareness about the challenges so that you can arm yourself and you can, you know, get the support that you need, that makes a difference.

Dr. Melissa Smith 1:38
So, you know, I am not here today to, to cast doom and gloom for anyone at all. In fact, I really want to help empower each of us to, you know, first of all, kind of be aware of the challenges that we face. I mean, of course, you’re aware of the challenges you face. But I want to also help you kind of see some of the research that’s coming out. Because I think it can help to validate your own experience, and maybe you know, the experience of those that you work with and those you lead, it can certainly help each of us to have more compassion for one another, more self compassion, right, because this is challenging. And then of course, empathy, both as leaders and colleagues, and you know, family members and loved ones friends. And so that’s really the goal today. And so hopefully, you know, the information and the research and the perspective can be helpful.

Dr. Melissa Smith 2:46
So of course, for those of you working mothers, you are used to juggling a lot. This is nothing new. But boy oh boy, 2020, has asked us as working mothers to juggle more than ever, and it’s forcing so many families, and working mothers in particular to grapple with a lot of very challenging, even heartbreaking questions. And so today, I really want to talk about some of the research findings that are starting to come out. Because isn’t it interesting, right? Like we’re, we’re now in quarter four of 2020. And we already have some really interesting and compelling research findings about the impact of this global pandemic, on the work lives of women. It’s so interesting to see. And, again, I want to be really clear about my intention here. It is not to spread doom and gloom and a woe is me attitude. And that is the furthest thing from my desire. And if you know me, personally, I don’t have much time for that “pity me” attitude is really, I don’t take much stock in that. For most of the working mothers. I know. They don’t have time for that either. And of course, I don’t have time for that. But what I do know is that acknowledgement matters. What you are doing every day, day in and day out matters. And it’s so important to acknowledge that and to make sure that you have the resources, you need to you know, pursue what matters and that you’re not doing it alone. And also knowing that you’re not alone in the challenges that you face. So more than that, knowing what you are up against and what you may need, and want to consider as you face your unique circumstances can hopefully be helpful to you. And you know, I certainly don’t want to pretend that I know the challenges that you face right, everyone has had unique challenges. But here’s the thing. And this is part of what we are learning from these new research findings, there can be some very helpful guidelines that can hopefully provide some guidance to you, as you consider what may be best for you, and your family and your work circumstance during this unprecedented time, because, right, like it’s a new challenge for all of us, right. I mean, we haven’t done a global pandemic before. And then of course, finally, I hope to offer you some solutions, and suggestions to help you as you are managing so much, okay.

Dr. Melissa Smith 5:44
And then every single week, my goal with the podcast is, you know, first and foremost, of course, to help you pursue what matters, and to help you develop the confidence to lead and strengthen your confidence to lead because so many of you do have confidence to lead. And that is awesome, we need confident leaders. And I try to do that in one of three primary areas. So leading with clarity, leading with curiosity, and leading and building a community. And so today, primarily, the goal is to help you lead with clarity. And so when we think about that, it is really connecting with what matters most and having a sense of purpose. And so, you know, recognizing that sometimes, and especially in times like this, you can have value conflict. And that can be so incredibly painful. And so some of your most deeply held values, whether that be around family, whether that be around mothering or parenting, and whether that be around pursuing purpose in your work in your career, can put you in value conflict, that is so painful. And that is a reality that many, many of you are facing, and that’s hard. And so we do want to acknowledge that. And so my hope with the podcast today is that we can help you lead with clarity and really kind of help you develop some more clarity as you grapple with some of these really challenging issues. So you know, for instance, that maybe there’s conflict between your purpose as a mother and conflict between your purpose as a provider and as a leader, or your purpose as a father or as a parent during times like these, it can feel so incredibly challenging to know what might be best. And you know, I don’t think there is very often a right or a wrong, I think definitely there are situations where there is a right or a wrong. But most most often, it’s really looking at what is best for you, in your unique circumstance. And so recognizing that that’s very personal. It’s so very personal. And so the hope today is that, you know, giving you the perspective of some of the very recent research findings, and giving you some guidance based on those research findings can help you as you move forward on your path with what can hopefully be, you know, the best decision for you in your unique situation, recognizing that there’s probably not a right or a wrong decision. So the first step is let’s take a look at those research findings. Because these are very interesting. And this is research done right here in 2020. As we are going through this pandemic, and of course, I will link to the specific research findings in the show notes. So if you want to take a look at these findings in greater depth, please definitely link to my show notes. And you can find all of the great details there.

Dr. Melissa Smith 9:19
So of course, probably the most obvious finding that, you know, we probably didn’t need a research study to tell us this. But it’s always good to confirm what we know intuitively with the research because sometimes we do find surprises. But of course, no surprise here. Work and life challenges have intensified during this pandemic, right. No big surprise there. So parents are strained more than ever. And so if we think about the impact of covid 19 on parents work routine Some of the questions that parents answered. So, one question that parents answered was, I have had to modify my work routine to adapt to my caregiving responsibilities. I mean, just think about that. I mean, almost everyone has had to do that. And so 71% of mothers answered, Yes, I’ve had to do that. And 65% of fathers have had to do that. So the vast majority of parents have had to modify their work routine to adapt to caregiving responsibilities, of course, a few more of the mothers than fathers have had to do that. And then another question related to this, I work outside of core hours to balance other family responsibilities. And so, right, like making big adjustments in order to balance family life and family responsibilities. And so with this question, 61% of mothers responded, yes, they’ve had to work outside of core hours to balance other family responsibilities. So they’ve had to work. This is their, their work routine, right. So whatever they’re doing for their job or their career, they’ve had to work outside of core hours. So 61% of mothers and 55% of fathers have responded, yes, they’ve had to do that. And, you know, I’ve been doing a lot of leadership trainings with large groups of individuals, and mostly women who, you know, are working remotely. And this finding from this research certainly is very consistent with the anecdotal responses that I am getting in my leadership trainings. You know, I’m talking to women, and they are, you know, starting their workdays very early in the morning before their family gets up, because it is the only uninterrupted time that they can get some work done. And then, of course, they’re trying to get their kiddos going on, you know, online school. And, you know, keeping their fingers crossed, that they can get some work done during that time, depending on the ages of their school, depending on, you know, whether their kiddos are having tech issues. But the vast majority of the women that I have been talking to anecdotally, right, having been doing large scale leadership trainings throughout 2020, is that these women are working before their families get up. And then after hours, you know, so that they’re working during the day while their children are doing online school or are in traditional school if they’re able to do that. And then of course, working after hours. So it really does fit with this finding that 61% of mothers and 55% of fathers are working outside of core hours to balance other family responsibilities. So no big surprise there.

Dr. Melissa Smith 13:26
Let’s move on to some of the other findings. And this relates to parental worries related to caregiving. Okay, and right. I mean, I think for most of us, as parents, we do have a lot of worries about how our kiddos are doing during this because everything has shifted. So let’s look at a couple of the key questions as it relates to this. So one question, I worry that I can’t support my children with school tasks as much as they need. So 58% of mothers responded Yes. To that, while 47% of fathers responded, yes, that they worry about that. And, and, you know, let’s just think about being able to support their children with school tasks. And what’s required in terms of supporting children with school tasks, has greatly increased, you know, because most children or many children throughout 2020 have been in online school, at least for some portion, right? For some portion of their schooling, all children have been doing online school or, you know, remote schooling. And so what’s been required to support children with school has, it has increased, you know, 10-20 fold, and so it’s almost impossible to be able to provide the support needed to children in that situation. And then if you think about, you know, the number of children you have, and the ages of children, I mean, those needs and the worries of parents in those situations, you can just see how that worry and those needs just grow exponentially. And so certainly understandable that there are a lot of worries about that. And there’s just there’s not enough time and not enough parents to go around, I think very often. And then another question related to parental worries related to caregiving, I feel a sense of guilt when working because I am not able to attend to my caregiving responsibilities.

Dr. Melissa Smith 15:47
So here we go, the dreaded guilt question 57% of mothers expressed this guilt, while 48% of fathers Express guilt. Now, here, this split between fathers and mothers, it’s not a real big surprise, mothers do tend to feel more guilt than fathers. And certainly fathers are feeling the guilt, but not to the same degree, as mothers. And so you know, that I think what we see here with the parental worry is we see working mothers who feel torn. And they they, you know, and this is a common refrain for working mothers, that is exacerbated with the pandemic, they can feel torn between the responsibilities to care give and the responsibilities to the work. And it’s not about necessarily conflict in terms of, boy, I am working, but I want to be at home, or I’m at home and I want to be working. It’s it’s more about, it’s more about balancing it all. It’s more about how do I make it all work. And you know, that is just the nature of the beast, that’s just the nature of being a caregiver. And you know, what I would say, being a mother in particular, and being engaged in work outside the home. And of course, it’s just made so much more burdensome by this pandemic. So that is what we see. As it relates to worries about caregiving. So the next set of findings that I want to take a look at is what kind of workplace support do mothers and fathers receive in the workplace. And this, again, all of this is directly related to this specific pandemic.

Dr. Melissa Smith 18:05
So all of this has been in the last few months, okay. And this is the finding, and it is, you know, it’s kind of heartbreaking, but mothers receive less workplace support than fathers do in managing childcare. Okay, and that should, that should be a wake up call to every leader. Listening, every leader needs to pay attention to this finding that mothers receive less workplace support than fathers do in managing childcare, even though we know and i’ll be talking more about this, that mothers by and large, are managing the caregiving responsibilities more than men. And that’s right, like that’s not an attack on men. It’s just a reality of what is happening. And yet, mothers are receiving less workplace support than fathers are when it comes to managing childcare.

Dr. Melissa Smith 19:16
Okay. And so let’s let’s look at some of these findings more specifically. So one of the assessment questions includes there are no plans in place, or I am not aware of any plans in place for employer support for childcare. So 49% of mothers responded in the affirmative to that, whereas 39% of fathers responded in the affirmative to that so 49% of mothers responded that there is no employer support for child Care. Whereas 39% of fathers responded that there was no employer support for childcare. Now what about when it comes to more flexible schedules? Because right, we have all had to have more flexibility in response to this pandemic. So 43% of women are reporting that they are receiving more flexible schedules at work, whereas 50% of men are reporting that they are receiving more flexible schedules.

Dr. Melissa Smith 20:38
Okay. So that is one of the best things that a leader or an organization can do to support a parent or a caregiver is they can create and support a more flexible schedule. But only 43% of mothers are receiving more flexible schedules, whereas 50% of men are receiving more flexible schedules. But we know that the burden for caregiving is by and large, falling on mother’s and so we’ve got to create more flexibility for mothers in the workplace, we want it for the men to do not get me wrong on that. But we’ve got to make sure that our mothers are getting the flexibility so that they can do their best work and, and take care of their family during this unprecedented time.

Dr. Melissa Smith 21:41
Okay, so now let’s take a look at the pandemic, uncertainty and the impact on parents experiences at work, right. And one thing this pandemic has taught us is that life is incredibly uncertain, we cannot control things, the minute you think you have control, life will teach you a very hard lesson, so forth 45% of parents have had to revise career goals and ambitions, right, because their plans or their trajectory has really been thrown off because of the pandemic 45%, almost half. So that’s had a really big impact on plans 43% of parents have been unable to perform optimally. And I think, you know, just think about your own experience in the past year you know, let’s say since March, have you been able to perform optimally. And I would say, probably very few of us could say that we have performed optimally, because we’ve had so many challenges, so many disruptions to our schedules, so many disruptions to our life. So yeah, I think there are very few people that could answer in the affirmative, that they are performing optimally. And then 42% of parents feel disconnected from their organization. And you know, that makes a lot of sense, when we consider remote work when we consider disrupted schedules, when we consider you know, for many people, they may have been on leave, they may have been furloughed. They may have, you know, had to take a break from work to be at home managing childcare or managing elder care. And so there are lots of factors that play into that feeling of disconnection. But I think that number also is really important for leaders to pay attention to. So you know, parents, and I think, you know, it’s probably more than just parents, obviously, the employees are feeling disconnected. Team members are not able to perform optimally. And team members are having to revise their career goals and ambitions. And so these are really important findings, for leaders to pay attention to, because what can you do to really pay attention to the needs of those who lead and you know, that the thing that I always try to pay attention to both as a leadership coach and as a psychologist is, you know, not looking at the surface issues per se, right, like they’re always there. And they, if we’re not careful, they can be so incredibly distracting, that we actually miss the underlying need. But so as a leadership coach, and as a psychologist, I am, you know, noting the surface issues. But I’m always, always, always always paying attention and trying to surface the underlying need, the underlying desire, the underlying want. Because if we can surface, the underlying need, the underlying desire, the underlying fear, we will get to the heart of the issue, and we will help to, you know, change culture, we will help to improve performance, we will help to create social connection, improve our culture, and it will be so much more effective and efficient than just focusing on the surface issues, because the surface issues will always be there, but they are, they are distracting shiny object, and organizations and relationships get thrown off track all the time by those things.

Dr. Melissa Smith 26:15
And so, you know, the parallel for that is, you know, in the marital relationship, you’ve got the, you know, for this purpose, you know, the partners who spend decades arguing over how the other partner brushes their teeth, and it’s never about, you know, the way the other partner brushes their teeth, but what is the underlying issue what’s the underlying need, what’s the underlying desire, then how do we surface those, so we don’t spend decades talking about the darn way they brush their teeth, because it’s just going to be so incredibly ineffective. And if you’re not careful as organizations, we make that same mistake. And of course, we don’t want that happening to you.

Dr. Melissa Smith 27:09
So now let’s take a look at what I have already alluded to, a little bit with the research that I have already shared. But that is this research, which is that mothers are providing more of the child care work during this pandemic. And you know, you might not, especially if you’re a father, you might not like this finding, but it’s, it’s pretty darn clear, is that when it comes to the burden of the childcare with this pandemic, mothers are doing it, mothers are much more burdened by the extra childcare. And you know, it’s actually not a big surprise, because that’s how, you know, that was happening before the pandemic. Now, we’ve come a long way, right, from the times of the second shift research, which was really groundbreaking research decades ago, you know, the shift, and the balance in childcare responsibilities has definitely become more equitable. And so that’s, you know, that’s important. And those have been really important shifts. But what we’re seeing with a pandemic is that by and large, the responsibilities and the burden of the extra childcare has fallen on mothers. So let’s just take a look at some of that research. And again, this is not to throw fathers or men under the bus at all, that is the last intention I have. I really like fathers, I really like men. It is just about helping us increase understanding and awareness and making sure that we’re supporting one another. So that is where I’m coming from. So and we all need to work together, we all need to be part of the solution. So it’s not about blaming, it is about increasing awareness, and problem solving. So that’s what I care about. Okay, so let’s take a look at this research. So mothers of small children have lost work at three times the rate of fathers in this pandemic. So that’s pretty startling right there. Now, there are lots of reasons for this. So sometimes this is because, you know, mothers might have had part time work as opposed to full time work or, you know, hourly work, that sort of thing. And so, there are many factors that that contribute to this difference. And I want to be very clear that, I acknowledge that and so you know this is not, this is not meant to be a political commentary at all. It’s really just more about understanding what’s happening for mothers, and the impact on childcare and again, how we can support one another. And so I just want to acknowledge that there are lots of reasons, lots of factors contributing to why, and why we see some of these impacts. And so just want to acknowledge that.

Dr. Melissa Smith 30:34
And so the other thing that we are seeing is that mothers of children 12 years old and younger, lost nearly 2.2 million jobs between February and August. And so that’s a 12%. drop. And and so fathers of small children saw a 4% drop. So that’s a really big difference. So mothers of young children saw a 12% drop, whereas fathers of small children saw 4% drop. So really big difference there, again, lots of factors contributing to that the loss was worse for single mothers of young children who lost 16% of jobs that they held in February, compared with a 6% drop for single fathers. And so you know, we just see pretty big disparities, of course, single mothers hit very hard. And I think what does that mean, for leaders, right, it means we really, we really, really, really need to have some flexibility and do what we can to support our working mothers, our single working mothers, what can we do to help them with the stressors that they are facing, especially with this pandemic, so that they can maintain secure work, and still, you know, be showing up for their kiddos in ways that are meaningful and you know, are secure for their kiddos? It really matters. So those losses are likely to have worsened in September, as more schools opened and online learning puts more and more pressure, especially on women to help young children with schoolwork. Right. And so that’s what we saw with some of the other research that I showed, and or that I already talked about. And so what we know is that the sudden switch to virtual classes, it just requires so much adult supervision, especially if you have young children. And so mothers with young children are more impacted by this. And so even when moms and dads are both working from home, so pay attention to this. Even when moms and dads are both working from home, women tend to get the brunt of childcare duties, including the new online school hassles. So a July study by Washington University in St. Louis, found that mothers of young children have lost four to five times more work hours than fathers in the pandemic. And again, there can be lots of reasons for this, are there some cultural biases, that a father’s work is more important than a mother’s work? Okay, and those might be biases that are held within the family. Those might be biases that are held by a father, those might be biases that are held by a mother. And right, like, there are lots of reasons for that. But what I want you to pay attention to, is that even with mom and dad, both working from home, both busy with work, moms, have lost four to five times more work hours than fathers. So sometimes the conversation needs to happen within the marriage. Sometimes the conversation needs to happen within the home. And, and so right like, this isn’t all work for leaders. This isn’t all work for companies, this isn’t all work for policymakers, right? Like when we think about solutions, when we think about problem solving, we really should be paying attention to it on every level. And you know, I tend to have a bias towards the individual level, just because I think that tends to result in more autonomy and personal responsibility. And as a psychologist, I tend to be a pretty big fan of that. But I think what we can see from some of these findings is that it’s on all of us to be paying attention to these things. So also a third of working women said a spouse was not helping with childcare during the pandemic, that kind of smacks of bitterness right there. Or maybe a little resentment, according to a University of Southern California study, leading to higher levels of psychological distress among mothers than fathers or women without children. So a third of working women said a spouse was not helping with childcare during the pandemic. And so yeah, right, like women, women are taking the brunt of it. In a survey of Wyoming women, more than two thirds of mothers at school and childcare changes in the pandemic had a moderate or severe impact on daily life. And a quarter of mothers were afraid of losing work because of a lack of childcare. So Wow, that’s, you know, that’s upsetting that they’re, you know, they were worried about losing their work because of because of that impact. And then, businesses owned by women are also being hit, you know, more than businesses owned by men.

Dr. Melissa Smith 36:01
So in a Hawaii State survey, female business owners were twice as likely to say their businesses will not survive the pandemic, only 5% of female business owners said they were unaffected by the pandemic, compared with almost 23% of male business owners. And so just think about that, if you are a female business owner, and you are providing the majority of child care in your home, that is less less time and energy you have for your business. And so in a direct way, we can see that impact. Okay, so I said, I did not want this podcast to be all doom and gloom, I do want to provide you with solutions and suggestions. But first, let’s not lose hope. This is such a challenging time. And I think for sure, these findings can be challenging, but also it’s like, yeah, that’s no big shock to what many working mothers are experiencing. And I think if you are working father, and and you heard some of these results, and you’re like, hey, like, that’s not me. First of all, go home and talk to your talk to your partner about this and see if your experience matches your partner’s experience. Seek feedback and maybe your perspective will be confirmed. And maybe you will learn something. And either way that could be really helpful for you. And so I think if it could open up a conversation, that would be great. And I think also, you know, for those of us leading teams, hopefully this information can be helpful for you, it can be sometimes a little uncomfortable, but also important. I know, for me, as someone who leads a team of mostly women, and mostly mothers, this is something I’ve really thought a lot about. And it’s, something that I I don’t know that worry is the right word. But it’s something that I take care to consider almost every single day, because I know if the folks that I lead are not thriving in their homes and in their families, it’s going to be really difficult for them to, to feel like they can thrive at work. And so for me, it’s just a very simple equation of wanting to support them so that they can do their best work and that they see work as something that actually helps them to thrive. So let’s start with solution one, which is respect and understanding, right, we really want to respect that everyone’s situation is unique. So regardless of your role, so whether you’re a working woman making a difficult decision, whether you are a working man who maybe is feeling sometimes a little frustrated, or maybe you are a working father, who doesn’t quite get it or you really, really get it or maybe you’re a leader of folks making some of these difficult decisions, you know, when we start with respect and understanding that can make all of the difference. So we respect these are challenging personal decisions, and that what might be right for you is not right for another. And you know, there is absolutely no place for judgment, there’s no place for blame. And we just want to be supportive and respectful. So respecting the autonomy of others to make the best decision for themselves, and their families. Even if it’s not the decision you would make. And I think, you know, starting with respect and understanding, can really make all the difference.

Dr. Melissa Smith 40:42
And then solution two is flexibility. And that can really be so helpful as we navigate 2020. And, you know, I think we’re going to need flexibility as we move forward into 2021. For sure,but encouraging open conversations about working flexibly. And especially if you are a leader, right, if you are leading a team, if you’re leading an organization, what can you do to create and support, work flexibility. Now 2020 has taught us that we can be so much more flexible than we ever thought we could be. And so instead of asking, Why, ask why not? You know, it’s always easier to say, no, it is so much easier to say no. And I would just really encourage you, if you are a leader, to try and find a way to say yes, you know, if you have a valuable employee who is struggling to support their home life and their work life, try to find a way to say yes, find a way to support work flexibility, and, you know, recognizing that these are unique circumstances. And so when we think about work flexibility, and it’s not just where because, you know, obviously that’s a big one. But it’s when the work gets done, because, you know, for some people, they’re needing to work early in the morning, and then late at night. So you know, the when really matters, because sometimes that’s fractured, throughout the day, you know, you’re probably gonna have to have a lot more flexibility about meeting schedules, and that sort of thing. Because that’s just the reality of the world that we live in, but also how much gets done. And that can be a hard one, especially when you’re trying to stay on track with performance improvement, and targets because right, like, you still need to try and run a business. And so I do think you need to have some very honest and tough conversations about that. But right, like, be willing to have those conversations, and do what makes sense. So it’s not about making a world of concessions, but it’s really about looking at looking at the situation, and doing what makes sense. And be willing to have those conversations. And this is right, like it is more work on the part of a leader. But you know what, that’s what you’re there for. And so be willing to have those conversations, be willing to be flexible, and, get to yes. So not only where, but when and how much. So that’s the second solution is flexibility.

Dr. Melissa Smith 44:05
And then the third solution is cultivating psychological safety. Now, of course, I just did a podcast on psychological safety not too long ago. So I will link to that in the show notes if you want a refresher course on that. And that if you’re a manager, if you’re a leader, and really you need to have a frank talk with your team about how they are doing, because, you know, as I mentioned with some of the findings, so many team members are feeling disconnected from their organizations, they’re feeling disconnected from purpose. And so cultivating psychological safety can really help to bridge that gap. And so talking about how the organization is doing, talking about the path ahead, acknowledging the uncertainty We want you to show empathy and create space for people to gain a sense of psychological safety. your willingness as a leader to, to open these conversations really makes a big difference. And so acknowledging the need of some team members, as caregivers, while simultaneously, while simultaneously fulfilling other work responsibilities, right, so like acknowledging, like, Hey, we got to have flexibility. And, you know, some people are really having to prioritize some other things right now. And we all need to have some understanding, while also acknowledging the stress involved in doing that, and why it matters, and what it means to be a team. And I think that, you know, you don’t try and pretend that those factors aren’t there, you don’t try to pretend that, you know, others aren’t picking up the slack, if that’s happening, but you connect your team to purpose, and you talk about why it matters. And you also hear, hear the concerns, you know, because it’s also not reasonable, that some people are getting slammed. And that they don’t have a voice in that. And so you really, you know, part of psychological safety is hearing concerns, and, you know, making sure that everyone has a voice. So, clarify that when something has to give, you know, that the safety and the needs of loved ones come first. And I think that that’s just a no brainer, right? Like, if if someone has to take care of a loved one, someone has to take care of a loved one. And that’s just the way that it goes. And so again, you can check out my recent podcast on psychological safety, if you want more information on that.

Dr. Melissa Smith 47:01
Okay, and then solution four: focus on the big picture. So if you personally are not dealing with caregiving needs, speak up for those who might be afraid to do so. So you can, right because sometimes that can be hard. Sometimes people are afraid that they’ll get punished if they do that, or that it might not be safe to do that. And so, you know, if you can speak up about that, if you can, if you have a little more clout, or something like that, and you can speak up, then do that, and focus on your team’s effort rather than the number of hours worked. That might be something that you can do during the pandemic for, you know, a short a short period of time, I wouldn’t do that long term. But focusing on different metrics for a short period of time can sometimes be helpful, you’re probably going to need to adjust your expectations, and your team members annual goals during this unusual period. So you want to trust and empower your team to work when and how much they can, right. So you still have expectations, but you’re going to have to make some adjustments. For those without extra obligations at home. You also want to respect their need for self care, as well during this crisis, and reassure them reassure them that they are not expected to make up for time other people don’t have. So they certainly can help if they want. And kindness is always appreciated during such a period. But there are repercussions for not doing so. And so this is where you really need to pay attention to the balance on your team. Because what you don’t want to see is a split between the parents. And those who don’t have don’t have a family care responsibilities, whether it’s elders, or whether it’s children, because that can happen sometimes. And it’s really not a good dynamic to have on a team. You know, sometimes resentment can build and that sort of thing. And so you as a leader really have to pay attention to that. And recognizing that just because someone doesn’t have, you know, children at home or elders at home does not mean they don’t have important obligations. It doesn’t mean they don’t have loved ones that they’re not concerned about. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have responsibilities that are stressful to them. So I think there can sometimes be judgment both ways. And as a team leader, you really want to be very watchful of that and root out any sort of blame or shame or judgment that could be lurking under the surface, because that will, that will undermine a team in a heartbeat. also recognize that your co workers may be dealing with many invisible factors, such as mental health issues or worry for loved ones far away, regardless of caregiving obligations. And so you don’t see everything, right, that’s so true. You just don’t see everything. So be careful of assumptions. Be very careful of assumptions. And the other thing I would say is don’t let this temporary crisis derail your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion progress. And in inadvertently lead to long term results you will regret that can happen so easily. And boy, we want to be very careful about that, as many companies learned the hard way, when they increasingly establish return ship programs to hire back those who left the workforce, because it didn’t accommodate caregiving responsibilities. They lose talent, because of a temporary situation. And it’s so expensive and really short sighted. And so it’s always so much better if you can discuss and keep a valued employee on board. Because what we don’t want to do, what we don’t want to do. And this is solution five, is we want to be wary of long term solutions to a short term problem, right?

Dr. Melissa Smith 51:43
So we don’t want to let people go, only to be hiring them back. Because, you know, really, this is a short term problem, this is a crisis and it is going to pass. And so what can you do to keep good employees on board, you’ve got to be flexible, you’ve got to have conversations, you’ve got to keep your team together. And so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And you’ve got to have open and frank communication, so that you can preserve a good team so that you can keep your people moving towards purpose. And, you know, I think the other thing that we learned is that this crisis really underscores the importance of having women serve in senior leadership roles, because they’re honestly, they’re more likely to understand experience, and normalize the immense burden that this pandemic is causing for working women. And so, you know, what does that what does that knowledge and understanding mean, for your workforce, right? That you can, you can open conversations about flexibility, and get the support that you need.

Dr. Melissa Smith 53:06
So what I would say is to treat this moment, as a community challenge, rather than an individual woman’s problem to solve in the middle of the night. This, this is a problem for all of us. And what I would say is that you will have a loyal team, that will want to stay with you. And we’ll be aligned to purpose, because you’re watching out for them, and they will want to watch out for you. And so we just, you know, as leaders, like we’ve got to take care of our people, and we’ve got it, we’ve got to give them the flexibility that they can take care of their people. And at the end of the day, it’s all it’s all about doing right by one another. And so that is what I want to leave you with, as we think about this impact on working mothers. And so, you know, for you as working mothers, you’re in the heart of the storm, and I hope that you know you have an increase in compassion for yourself. I hope that this will help you open conversations with your partners. I hope this will help you open conversations with those you work with. I hope for you working fathers and colleagues that this will help you to have more awareness and see like okay, what what can I do, where can I step it up and what have I not been seeing that I need to see and what have I not been doing that I need to do, and for leaders that we can really, that we can recognize that our work is about more than just the work. It’s about about supporting one another and, and building better lives, right?

Dr. Melissa Smith 55:30
What whether that is with the teams we lead, the products we create, the services we provide, and that there is no hard split between those things. And so I hope for those leaders out there, which I think all of you should be leaders, right, that you will be willing to open those conversations, find a way to get to yes. And keep those awesome team members that you have and do what you can to be flexible, and recognize that all things considered. This is a short term problem. And let’s be wary of long term solutions to short term problems. This will pass. And if you can, if you can lean in to these conversations and be flexible and support, support your people. And you and your team and your organization will be stronger on the other side. And so that’s what I want to leave with you today.

Dr. Melissa Smith 56:49
So make sure you head on over to my website to check out the show notes with all the great resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-79 one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-79. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai