It is going to be two months of lockdown in India soon and for some of us we have already reached this milestone. Under the Covid lockdown work from home is a reality and businesses are already gearing up for this new normal. In the recent past, managers always were suspicious of employees availing work from home and while this prejudice is not completely over, there is a slow acceptance due to circumstances.
But with no household help for majority of Indian households in this scenario, I wonder how is work from home working for the women workforce?
The household chores of cooking and cleaning encompass myriad unending activities during the day and with the whole family at home there is constant demand for attention for little things like tea and snacks in between. In some of the families, chores are being shared by everyone irrespective of gender, even though kitchen has remained largely a woman’s domain.
While certain office roles have been fluid in this lockdown, many offices are enforcing the full 8 to 9 hours working hours, and some going beyond the usual work hours late into night and on weekends as well. This becomes a difficult job for the women workers especially the ones with children who demand constant attention and need to be kept busy and entertained. And then there are older parents (or in-laws) to be looked after too. For these women to hold normal office job has been possible due to household help available and with this disrupted, the work pressure on all fronts has been overwhelming.
And then there is a space issue has well, few households have a three or four bedroom apartments with good internet connections or even individual entertainment devices. And with the whole family at home, dividing this space becomes even more challenging – an older kid who has to take online classes, the younger child who needs TV or a mobile device, man of the house needs a quiet working place to take calls or online meetings and parents need their own space to read or watch – this leaves the woman who after finishing her house job also needs to sit down and pick her office job up.
Surrounded by the never ending work list, physical exertion aside, it is mental exhaustion combined with psychological lockdown effect of stuck at home, no entertainment in terms of going out to do mindless little things of shopping, watching a movie, eating or drinking out with friends, spa or beauty indulgence – a little downtime which is missing now being walled in.
While this crisis is still not over, offices are extending the work from home deadlines under the Covid lockdown, schools are already into summer vacations and RWAs are continuing the embargo on household help – the exhausted women workforce are wishing for the old normal life to return soon. Until then, under the Covid lockdown work from home for working women continues to mean work at home and work from home.