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#Voices: Study Says Women Who Work From Home Suffer From ‘Double Burden Syndrome’ Where Deadlines And Domestic Duties Are Both Their Responsibility

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If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a million times—as a woman, if I’m given a choice, I’d always choose working out of an office over work from home. And you can argue about all the ‘flexibility’ that working from home accords—like working in your PJs and not having to commute—but all of this is rendered useless by just one thing. The ‘Double Burden Syndrome’ is something most women working out of their homes are experiencing, according to this remote working survey conducted across cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and Kolkata.

The ‘Remote Working And Its Impact On Women Professionals’ survey was conducted by Pink Ladder across major Indian cities and includes responses from 250 women. The findings indicate that 4 in 10 women are facing high levels of anxiety and stress while working from home. While this is disturbing in many ways, because there’s no dearth of the already existing workplace stresses, it isn’t exactly surprising.

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The ‘Double Burden Syndrome’ is turning work from home into work from hell for women

As lockdowns keep entire families home, and paid help away, the burden of household chores falls to the women folk. If working women were tested with their time management skills, now it is a full blown obstacle course. And looks like there’s no winning for most of them. Enter, the ‘Double Burden Syndrome’ where female professionals have to adhere to work deadlines and attend video meetings but also make breakfast, lunch and dinner in time and sit at the dining table with the family. Those two-day weekends that seemed enough to cast away the burden of five working days are now spent cooking fancy meals (because hotel toh nahi jaa sakte), cleaning the entire house, and making supply runs.

Something’s gotta give, right?

Hey Boss, you listening?

The study suggests that we could probably start with the managers and bosses, who seem to miss out signs of stress and anxiety arising from shouldering this dual burden. According to their finding, while 67% of the managers are mindful of shift timings and perhaps offering some leeway here and there, 33% of them don’t. The numbers might favour female managers as being more accommodating of women employees’ needs than male managers, but that’s not always the case.

Furthermore, merely respecting an employee’s shift timing and not making them work overtime isn’t enough, is it? Household emergencies and chores are often unpredictable and can pop up anytime. With even the best time management in place, the usual 9 hours might not be enough to do justice to a day’s work. 

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Time management won’t help when motivation’s zero!

What makes this worse is the utter lack of motivation. And no, it’s not some flimsy excuse that your employees are making to laze around or waste time.

According to the study, more than 50% female employees are facing motivational issues, which cause a drop in their performance levels. A normal task that’d take 10 minutes on a usual day might now take 40 minutes to finish. Even the most diligent employees will find themselves scrolling social media and watching random cat videos when they’re supposed to be working. It doesn’t help that other family members might be enjoying an afternoon siesta or binging some show right in front of them. It’s distractions galore!

Also Read: As A Woman, I’ll Always Choose Working From Office Over Work From Home. Here’s Why.

Why women are afraid to speak up

As per the study’s findings, over 55% of job losses during the pandemic have been suffered by female professionals. Now remember, corporate culture does not particularly encourage people who complain about not having a work-life balance anyway. Women are even less likely to voice their issues because they do not want to seem any less efficient and capable than their male counterparts. So what makes us think they would speak up now, when there’s a mad rush to keep their jobs while so many across the board are losing theirs? When the lay-offs come calling in your workplace, would you want to be the working mom who takes too many breaks and leaves? Yeah, not really.

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And that is where the problem lies. What makes a work from home situation ideal is that it removes all the stresses of a workplace—the commute, the timings, the dress code, the noisy atmosphere, and the constant distraction. But if you remove those and replace them with household stresses—cooking, cleaning, too many meetings that could’ve been emails, crying children, and male relatives who won’t lift a finger to share the burden—then how is it a better work environment? It’s more stressful, especially since you can’t walk out of it like you could from your office at the end of the day!

Also Read: Women Are More Likely To Lose Their Jobs During This Pandemic And Will Probably Not Get Rehired Due To Gender Biases. It’s Going To Be Tough For Us

We need empathetic managers. But also, dear men, pick up your slack and be good co-home-workers!

Having managers who understand that flexibility does not necessarily mean loss of productivity is extremely important. In addition to offering professional help, if managers and leaders start offering emotional support via empathy, it would help the situation drastically. But more than that, the biggest change has to be in the gender norms that dictate women should compromise on their careers and work hours to accommodate home responsibilities. We need men—fathers, brothers, partners, husbands, boyfriends, uncles—to support the working women in their homes by doing their share of chores. But not as if they’re doing a favour to women or helping out. It’s more of an equality move, where everyone understands their respective duties towards a house that they all live in.

In fact, why just working women? It’s high time this becomes a norm for every household! Perhaps, that might even encourage women who thought working was never an option for them to consider a career or business.

Also Read: Dear Parents, It’s Work From Home, Not Summer Vacation. Why Don’t My Parents Get The Concept?

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