Mother’s Day was celebrated around the world on 9th May. My excitement of celebrating my 6th year as a mom, fizzled out faster than the fizz in the soda that my hubby was happily glugging down.

“What’s happening, you two?” I ask the one and a half men pair playing couch potato on Sunday morning, binging mindlessly on entertainment and junk food.

“Oh, nothing! Come join”, pat comes the reply with eyes glued to the telly.

 I shake my head in disbelief as I see empty packets of chips strewn around the coffee table.

“Why didn’t you make breakfast today?” I ask the hubby angrily and, in the same breath, look pointedly at my 6-year old who, IMO, has some potential to be conditioned and molded to my beliefs than the 38-year old who I have given up on. “And you! Don’t you believe in eating healthy now?” I scream at no one in particular.

My questions are drowned in the deafening sound effects of Marvel Avengers as are my hopes of having any celebrations for being a human with limitless patience, tolerance, understanding, unconditional love and compassion. And oh, for being a Mother too!

This Mother’s Day, the struggle was real as it was a conundrum on how to make the day special for the super human who gave you life and, these days being borderline burnt out, acts like she can take it back from you too!

The Executive Mom Syndrome

As COVID-19 made a place for itself in our homes, communities, businesses and countries, it also added exponentially to the job of mothers around the world. With schools and childcare centers closed, play dates canceled, and caregiving by family or others suspended, mothers who still have jobs are struggling to complete their work assignments while caring for children. While this situation poses challenges for men too, the lopsided burden of unpaid domestic labor – cooking, cleaning, drying, tending to the young and to the old – has fallen square and fair on the women of the house. For working women, it’s a double whammy as they not just have to work from home but work for home as well.

According to a survey by a motherhood lifestyle brand Motherly, 30% of US full-time working moms say their primary cause of stress, since the pandemic began, is child care, followed by worries around the mental health and well-being of family members. While 74% of mothers report feeling mentally worse.

Although men have nearly tripled the amount of time they spend on child care since 1965 and the number of men who are stay-at-home fathers has doubled in the past 20 years, imbalances persist in what has been called the “invisible work” of parenting. If earlier women could dedicate 9 hours every day to their professional goals and then come home to their gendered responsibilities, now they are forced to go beyond that and be at it 24×7.

Here’s how employers across the globe are helping working mothers cope through these challenges:

  • Leaders at IPM India ensure that there is enough flexibility for working mothers and they are sensitive in not scheduling calls or collaboration work before 10 am, between 1-3 pm and after 7 pm to enable them to work from home and work for home without stress.
  • For Optum Global Solutions, India, new programs like FITWELL, PLANWELL, RAISEWELL, and FIT WELL VIRTUAL have been introduced to help working mothers de-stress, organize their days, indulge in peer to peer learning, and engage with family and colleagues.
  • Hinduja Global Services (HGS), through moderated discussions, invites employees to share their parenting experiences and difficulties, and include tips and tricks to engage with children.

However, there’s a silver lining to this dark cloud – As per a report by online career platform Jobs For Her, work-for-home jobs posted on its platform saw 30 percent rise in March 2020 as compared to the same month last year. For the women too, this is a time when working from home is the new normal and makes it the perfect time to start or restart their careers.

The Era of Remote Everything

  • Remote Working

More than one million small businesses in Australia are forecast to continue operating remotely after COVID-19 restrictions lift, according to new research commission by software giant Zoho. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have all asked employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future, in attempts to curb infection rates. It’s not just the private and the public companies that are taking the pandemic in their stride, Governments are learning to love remote work too and will likely lead to permanent changes in everything from labor management and technology to physical footprints.

Still, the rapid onset of Coronavirus has meant companies haven’t been able to plan accordingly, and many are finding themselves (and their technology) unprepared to cope with an entire workforce being remote. One thing that has been providing respite to these challenges are remote working tools for Communication, Scheduling, Project Management and File Sharing. Microsoft Teams (Communication) is clocking a daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in one day, a 200 percent increase from 900 million on March 16. And as students and teachers turn to Teams for distance learning, there are 183,000 tenants in 175 countries using Teams for Education. Here are the best free remote working tools.

  • Remote Schooling

After months of remote schooling, school pupils across the world get ready to go to school albeit maintaining social distance and following all preventive measures for COVID-19.

Further, HRD ministry has allowed 100 top universities in the country to start online degree courses from 30th May. The government will launch PM eVidya, a programme for multi-mode access to digital education, which will include the existing Diskha portal for online content. There will be one earmarked TV channel for each class in school, exclusive use of radio and community radio, and online degree programmes.

This is great news as it helps bridge the digital divide caused by coronavirus, which not only locked down free movement but access to education for over 320 million learners in India alone.

  • Remote Shopping

In a survey conducted by Capgemini Research Institute across 11,000 consumers globally, in urban India, those surveyed said that over the next six to nine months their need for online shopping will increase from 46% to 64%, indicating that India’s shoppers, typically used to visiting local markets, will buy more items online.

JioMart, an e-commerce venture of Reliance Retail, went live in three neighborhoods surrounding Mumbai, leveraging a deal that gives it access to WhatsApp’s 400 million users in India currently under the world’s most expansive lockdown.

  • Remote Banking

In a survey of over 1,000 American consumers done by FIS between April 3-5, the findings support the belief that COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of banking, payments and commerce, supporting the potential for a “new normal” in consumer behavior post-COVID-19.

The research found that:

  • More than 45% of respondents say they have permanently changed how they interact with their bank since COVID-19.
  • 31% of respondents will use online or mobile banking more in the future.
  • 45% of consumers have used a mobile wallet payment platform in the past 30 days.
  • Remote (Corporate) Learning/ Training

The changing working environment, with technology at its heart, are driving the employee training demand across industries and countries. To adapt to the new normal, the workforce needs both unit-level up-skilling as well as organization-wide transformational training, technical as well as non-technical training on remote-working skills, remote-management skills, leadership skills in time of crisis and others. Companies are shifting from the traditional classroom training to the digital training set-up which will enable businesses to operate efficiently while ensuring employee safety.

This has paved opportunities for the growth of the e-learning segment. The lockdown is expected to boost the demand for e-learning platforms, resulting in a spike in the market during the forecast period and is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 14% during the period 2019-2025.

But the larger question that needs attention is: As we get accustomed to the new order and sail the digital waters, are we leaving more digital footprints? Perhaps it’s time to maintain information distancing along with social distancing.

Speaking of footprints, later on Mother’s Day, I find handprints on the kitchen counter. As I start fuming and get ready to blast my kid and hubby, I find them with a cake in hand and a hug that would melt away my frustrations of ‘doing it all’.

We all sit down to enjoy the lovingly-made DIY cracker cake that’s a bit broken like my family and yet sweet to the core. Just like my family too!

“It’s your turn to do the dishes tonight. Remember, right?” comes the question at just the right moment as I lick the last bits of Hersley syrup off my plate.

I sigh as I await another chore on another (Mother’s) Day!

‘The month that was’ is a monthly column covering the hot and the happening in the eLearning, L&D and learning technology space presented in a light, easy-to-digest format. While the aim of these posts is to keep the HR and the Learning & Development fraternity abreast with the latest news and views, it is a vent out for the author, Pranjalee Lahri, who deals with a one-and-a-half men pair – her hubby and her 6-year old son – as she moonlights as a wife and a mother.

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