Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

Before the pandemic, Adam Baldwin, a father of two young children, would leave the house in Hertfordshire every day at 06:30 and return at 18:30. “I will miss childcare and cooking,” he says. “I thought I was the one doing the hard thing.” Working at home has changed his attitude.

Now Baldwin, who works in financial services, appreciates the struggle his wife had to get the kids out the door so she could get to the high school where she teaches.

He enjoys the time he has recovered from commuting. “It’s fun to be a part of the kids’ lives.” Recently, he was included in a kids group WhatsApp group. ‘I bought the present. Previously, I would have said, “Who is this child, why are we going?” When I am at home, I am active in the process. ”

These experiences made Baldwin reflect on the unpaid and often invisible work that has always been done, not only at home but also within his workplace. These are the tasks that, while not the core of the job, facilitate social relationships or make the workplace run smoothly. Unpaid office work (sometimes described as “office homework”) includes tasks such as organizing social events in the team, time to run and participate in resource groups and internal events, and compiling birthday cards or gifts for team members te los.

Baldwin notes that such tasks, as in the domestic kingdom, have traditionally been done by women. In his own team, there was change even before the pandemic, but closures helped redistribute office work. “Switching to fully digital ways of working has meant that it is much easier to shift responsibilities, with a better insight from management on ‘who does what’ in office work and social administration. Everyone should make a contribution, so I try to be an example in this regard and would like to volunteer for the less glamorous task. “

Through locks, household help eased as households tried to run a home to perform well in their jobs. A report late last year by UN Women found that “although both sexes have seen their unpaid workload increase, women carry more burden than men.” And as employers and employees learn how to organize work and personal lives in a hybrid future, we have an unprecedented opportunity to reconsider the role of unpaid work, both at home and in the office.

The ‘glue’ of corporate culture

The importance of office work was emphasized in a controversial case earlier this year opinion piece by Cathy Merrill, CEO of Washingtonian Media, who said that ‘about 20 percent of all office work is outside of one’s responsibilities -‘ extra ‘. It involves helping a colleague, mentoring more young people, celebrating someone’s birthday – things that drive office culture.

She focuses on the importance of physical presence in the office. The article led to a setback for her staff, and Merrill later apologized for suggesting that workers who were still remote and unavailable for such tasks would be replaced by contractors.

Yet her comments highlighted the importance of unpaid work for building the culture of the business, says Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who has researched office work and preferred it to be ‘non-promotional’. work ‘.

She emphasizes the value of this “unsung and undeserved work”, as it enables “people to do their work”. And it did not disappear in a remote area. “There’s so much work behind the scenes and it’s still invisible.”

Daisy Dowling, author of Working parent, a guide for working parents, says the upcoming dominance of hybrid work – a combination of being at home and in the traditional workplace – will intensify such tasks. One example is that there will be new meetings to find out, while people try to coordinate times to see each other in person. “Everyone wants to do an off-site, everyone wants to catch up on office supplies,” she says.

Homework repair

Someone has to do the tasks. “Women are more likely to do this than men, and they are not recognized for it,” Babcock said. We know that the intersection between home and work life has always been there. “Homework is homework, it doesn’t matter where it appears,” says Dowling. What has now changed is that the post-pandemic workplace offers the opportunity to restore household and office traditions. “We can start new norms. Let us really be aware of that, ”she advises.

Employers can tackle this reset in two ways, Babcock says. ‘You can either take the view that this work should be rewarded and recognized, or [it needs to be] allocated. If people are rewarded for it, men might do it. ”

Front-line managers need to think about how they divide tasks, such as arranging birthdays © Getty

She suggests that women tacitly agree to ask a man to act. ‘You can say [to a female colleague]’Hey, you do not have to do this again. Mike, why do not you do that? ‘”

Dowling agrees: ‘It is very common for the job administrator to [slide] decks together, tend to go to the same people over and over again, as someone is good with it and does not complain about it. As a senior manager, you need to think ‘how do I divide the tasks’ – so that you do not put certain employees in a box.

During the pandemic, men assumed a greater share of the household responsibilities. The Fatherhood Institute, a charity, found that 65 percent of fathers surveyed reported a better relationship with their child as a result of the lock-in in the spring of 2020. Adrienne Burgess, CEO, says “we could see fathers [push to] shorten their hours by reducing travel ”and gaining more flexibility. She fears that in the future there will be a gap between staff members and those in low-paid positions who cannot rearrange their hours and place.

Booking encouraged

Such a redistribution of tasks at home can help to improve gender equality in the workplace. Caitlyn Collins, assistant professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, says unpaid domestic labor keeps households afloat. If it “belongs to women, it will continue to harm them in the world of paid work as well as at home”.

Encouraging discussions at work about sharing tasks at home can help demystify peers’ job success. Dowling says it’s too easy to assume that others are ‘smarter or tighter’, but you may find that they have outsourced a lot of homework, cooking and childcare. The possible downside is that “if you do not have money and help, [such information] can be demoralizing, ”says Dowling.

One mother of two working for a multinational says she worked near her husband during the pandemic, forcing her to look at inequality in their respective priorities. She noticed the differences in the way they use their free time during the day. ‘I try to tackle my long list of home planning tasks, or take time to load the washing machine; he pays regular attention to mental health interruptions [and] go. I wonder what the long-term impact of these actions is that I miss. ”

For Andreea Natapov, who works in professional services, the pandemic made her reconsider how much time she is willing to spend on aspects of work outside of her core job. ‘Now I’m not in the office, I do not feel obligated to do things. After [a day on] screens, is the last thing I feel like going for Zoom drinks.

‘The pandemic taught me that you have the best intentions of being a good team member, but it can not come at the expense of myself. I learned to work out for some time for my personal life. I feel less guilty because I said ‘I’m not going to raise my hand for this’. ”

She suggests that the pandemic improve all sorts of office rituals, which may not be necessary to return, and this relieves colleagues of the burden of arranging such events. The farewell of the pandemic period, which sees colleagues at Zoom gather rather than have drinks at the desks, could become a fixed place in the future. “Maybe people want a quiet exit,” Natapov said. “It’s a way of rethinking what’s important.”

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