Mother Of Two & President Of A Global Company Shares Insights On Working Moms Getting More Support From Employers During COVID

By Debbie Lentz

With people around the world learning to work and live in the new climate that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, working from home is now something that many people have had to become used to. As with all new circumstances, working from home poses a new set of challenges, including productivity, headspace, and distraction – but these challenges will be significantly increased for working mothers with children to care for. 

In April to June 2019, 3 in 4 mothers with dependent children were in work in the UK, according to the Office of National Statistics, however, recent data from the World Economic Forum suggests that 1 in 4 women are now considering downshifting or leaving their careers as a result of the additional pressures created by the pandemic. In the United States estimated 850,000 women dropped out of the workforce in September, feeling the pressure to shoulder the burden of childcare due to the pandemic.

It is clear that women, in particular those who were previously office-based, are in many cases struggling to adapt to combining working from home with managing childcare, as well as additional household needs.

Although adapting to this new work-life balance has its challenges, it is definitely something that is possible with the correct support and management. 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. 

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

Communicate your needs with management 

Leadership teams in any business have a duty to care for their team members at work and provide them with adequate support to ensure that they are able to complete their jobs. However, raising personal challenges and struggles is often much more easily said than done. 

Debbie explains: “An important factor to remember during this time is that you are not alone in feeling these challenges – many women and mothers are facing the same work-life balance difficulties as you are, given the unsettling changes to schools and remote working. By raising any challenges you’re facing – whether that’s a result of working from home for the first time or having to juggle childcare with working hours, if you don’t mention these problems as they arise with your manager, a solution will be harder to find.”

Work-life balance struggles have only intensified throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as we attempt to find our way in a new normal. Managing home-schooling and working from home is a challenge for many mothers, but equally, as we regain some elements of normality, the pressures of managing a child at school with these new restrictions and ensuring they are happy and safe away from the home also creates its own stresses, which will only be increased in a single parent household. 

There are many possible ways for businesses to accommodate the needs of staff during this time, including using flexible working hours, so that parents can spend more time with their children at certain points and make up time later, or even just provide more support so that task-lists don’t overflow into personal time. 

“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 and employers are becoming more and more aware of the importance of having a strong work-life balance, so your employer is likely to be as supportive as possible to ensure you’re able to get your job done well whilst balancing home life at the same time,” added Debbie.

Implement boundaries to protect your personal time

Now that our homes are both our working spaces as well as a place for personal downtime with our families, boundaries need to be in place in order to fully and effectively switch off. Creating effective boundaries can help to reduce our stress levels while helping to boost productivity, engagement with work and our mental wellbeing. 

When working from offices was the norm for the majority of people, workers were able to leave behind any stresses of the day at the office before a commute home – however, this is no longer the case. Stresses and work challenges are now taking place within our homes which, if not handled properly, can have a knock-on effect. 

Debbie shares some ways that this can be handled:
“If there is an area in your home that can now be set up as a home office, make sure to utilize it. The importance is more on having a dedicated area for work to take place – away from the communal areas you spend time with your family. 

“If you don’t have a separate space available and are working from a communal area such as a dining room, make a clear distinction between the working day and when the working day ends. Physically pack your laptop away, out of sight, until the next day when the working day commences again. If you never have an official end to the working day, your work-life balance will be affected negatively.  

“Be sure to speak to your employer about whether a working from home budget is available – or if you can claim back on expenses – to purchase equipment such as a chair or desk that could help with posture and preventing back pain.” 

Maintain informal face-to-face time with colleagues

For those who worked in the office full time before the pandemic, face-to-face time with colleagues is something that was an entirely normal part of the working day. Working from home makes it a little harder to have this face-to-face conversation, with the effects of Zoom fatigue now felt by many, but it is still crucial to ensure that there is an open channel of communication between your and your colleagues.

“In the pre-COVID-19 world, video calls were something many of us avoided – and now, they’re one of the most effective ways to communicate and have normal conversations with friends, family and colleagues! 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. It’s now much harder for managers to keep tabs on employee happiness and struggles so, alongside being open and transparent, ensure that this communication is frequent in order to discuss workload, personal wellbeing and any challenges inside or outside work,” says Debbie.

It may be worth considering having a mentor for support during this time. Switching off from work is only made harder if tasks are pushed back, which is only more difficult for working mothers who will also be prioritizing childcare and parenting. 

When working full time in an office environment, having informal chats with colleagues is part of the daily routine, so it’s important to make sure that this is substituted with video calls or other communication, to ensure that you continue to feel connected as a team. During this time of working remotely, it’s important to keep morale high, and research has previously shown that socializing with co-workers is an excellent way to do this, without having to sacrifice productivity. 

Although many of us have found adapting to the new way of working during COVID-19 to be a challenge, particularly for working parents who have had to adapt to balancing childcare and working from home, finding a good work-life balance is still possible. Having supportive and understanding managers and colleagues, and ensuring that your home work station is set up in a way that helps your mindset towards work are two key things that can help working mothers to balance their priorities, both at this time and into the future. 

Debbie Lentz is the President of Global Supply Chain at RS Components and the Electrocomponents Group. She joined Electrocomponents plc as the President of Global Supply Chain in 2017. RS Components is a solutions partner for industrial customers and suppliers who are involved in designing, building or maintaining industrial equipment and facilities. RS Components offers more than 500,000 industrial and electronic products, sourced from over 2,500 leading suppliers, and provides a wide range of value-added services to over one million customers. They operate in 32 countries.