4 Things Progressive Companies can do
to Support Remote Work Parents
By Stella Kang, Organising Network & Partnerships Manager
It’s a challenging time to be a parent. Well, to be fair, it’s a challenging time to be a person, and parents are definitely not exempt. Even the most privileged of us who are able to continue working from the safety of home are struggling with juggling our parenting (homeschooling! non-stop cooking for other people! poopy diapers! tantrums!) and job responsibilities. As I’m writing this blog post, my 2 year old is literally running around the house singing “How Far I’ll Go” at the top of her lungs in her diaper, while attempting to evade my husband who is chasing her around trying to get her dressed for the day. How Far She’ll Go INDEED.
I’m lucky to have a co-parent who, in addition to his more than full-time work schedule, watches the kids in the morning while I get some extra sleep and do my morning check in at work, does a large part of staying on top of parent/teacher communications (they happen in his native languages), and makes sure the housework is divided evenly. And I’m really lucky to work at Tectonica, where leadership really walks the walk when it comes to practicing our progressive values. Working as a parent in the time of Covid19 hasn’t been easy by any means, but having supportive leadership at Tectonica has been a game changer. But with few other supports in place for working parents, psychologists and labor experts agree that the pandemic is taking a much larger toll on moms because we tend to carry a larger mental load and pick up second shift duties at home. The gender pay gap creates situations where supporting men’s work over women’s work becomes the default because of the importance given to work that brings in more income, meaning that women end up performing more childcare and household duties. But even where women in opposite-sex couples earn more than their partners, research shows that they still do more of the household work and duties related to child rearing.
Progressive companies tend to provide more support and resources for women and moms, and it’s a worthwhile investment: studies have shown that parents (and moms in particular!) are more productive than many of their colleagues without children. And let’s be real. Companies with progressive values are usually more conscientious about recruiting and hiring diverse candidates, including moms, which means that they are also likely providing more accommodations and ultimately working with fewer resources during Covid19. But that isn’t to say that conservative businesses that don’t value diversity and inclusion are better off for it. The effort progressive companies like Tectonica make to create accommodations for diverse needs amongst our teams enriches us with a diversity of perspectives that in turn makes us more creative, better at decision-making, and ultimately more understanding and kinder people.
Here are some things that Tectonica does to support parents working with children at home that can be easily adopted into the work culture of companies with progressive values:
1. Flexible schedules: Tectonica has offered flexible schedules since before the pandemic, and it’s something I’ve been grateful for since I started working here. Being able to adjust my schedule so that I can be available for my kids when I need to be helps me be more productive with the time I have at work and motivates me to stay committed to an employer that I believe is invested in my well-being and happiness. Plus, flexibility benefits Tectonica, too. Studies have shown that flexibility attracts qualified candidates, increases productivity, and reduces employee turnover and absenteeism. Before Covid19, flexibility at Tectonica meant that I could come in earlier, take a shorter lunch break, and leave earlier than my colleagues so I could pick up my kids from school or just have some extra time with them at the end of the day. Now it means that if my kid had a shorter than average nap or the iPad wasn’t working as a distraction (don’t fail me, TV!!), I can switch my hours around and work after they’re in bed or before they wake up in the morning.
2. Reduced hours: The first day Spain began its lockdown and I was at home with my kids trying to work a full schedule, it became abundantly clear that it was going to be extremely challenging, if not downright impossible. After an intense week of struggling to make things work (including an attempt at a serious heart to heart with my 2-year-old to explain what “work” is...and failing miserably), I scheduled a meeting with leadership and requested a reduction of hours so I could spend part of my day focused on their needs. Tectonica was sympathetic and immediately agreed to my request and worked with me to find a schedule that made sense for us both.
3. Optional check-in meetings: The pandemic is stressful, what with the spectre of serious illness and death all around us, and Tectonica has scheduled regular check-in meetings with the team to make sure we have a space to check-in with each other. If people are too busy to make it to the meeting, no big deal! It’s all about making sure we’re doing ok and feel supported.
Tectonica doesn’t have any dads on the team (yet), but this last one is super important:
4. Dads need flexibility, too: Until a cultural shift happens where we expect dads to be just as involved with child rearing and household duties as moms, moms are going to keep getting the short end of the stick. If you have dads on your team, make sure you give them the same flexibility and support you give to moms, otherwise (for dads in opposite-sex relationships) their women partners are going to be picking up the extra work at home and we’ll continue to be eons away from closing the gender pay gap and achieving gender equity-key to creating a just and sustainable world.
Eventually the pandemic will end and school will begin again (oh how I miss and appreciate teachers like never before!), but creating a supportive work environment for parents should be a constant part of a progressive organisation’s culture, and there’s never been a better time to build that culture than now.
Working During Covid19 as a Single Mom
By Emma Hammond, Marketing and Administrative Assistant
The current pandemic and its consequences on everyday work-life balance are indeed tough, let alone the ‘remote working-homeschooling’ balance, and the emotional and psychological toll that that is taking at all levels of society. As a single working parent, this confinement period has reinforced the revelation I had when I first became separated: time is the principal commodity.
Having time to take your child to school, to cook and care for them, and of course to do the fun stuff too, on top of a busy work schedule, is testing for all parents. As a single parent, one becomes exceptionally astute at time-management.
I am not native to Barcelona — my family doesn’t live in Spain — so when my daughter’s father and I first separated I had to turn to a few mothers and fathers from the school, plus my friends, for childcare support, a few times my local grocery store owner even helped me out! One gets resourceful when one needs to. Of course, with Covid19, a lot of those supports aren't currently available to me, making things that much more challenging.
I was also very lucky at the time, working at a company that allowed me to keep a relatively flexible timetable — it was a lifesaver: my daughter was 4 years old, she went on school trips at odd times, often had to go to the doctors, and we were often called to the school for meetings. I am positive that many companies would not have adapted so easily to my new, more-erratic, situation.
I have just started working at Tectonica. I feel relieved and lucky at their inclusive approach to mothers (and parents) at work, during the interview process the fact that I am a mother was discussed early on, and practically applauded! Plus, as Stella already mentioned, this transparency, this humanity, only serves to make me feel more enthusiastic and motivated about the work I do at Tectonica. In the end, a healthy, happy workforce will always be more productive.
Finding the balance
By Carmen Pastora, Executive Assistant
I was in the middle of a job search when the pandemic started. From one day to another, schools were closed, and I found myself homeschooling my 3 year-old girl for the first time. Suddenly, the priorities of my job search changed. I needed a job where I could work remotely, as my husband is a doctor and working from home is simply not a feasible option. Both my husband’s parents and mine are at risk, as they are above 65 years old, so leaving Alexa with them while the schools were closed was not a solution either.
As the days went by, I understood that the pandemic would change our daily lives for a very long time. Schools would remain closed, social distancing would become the norm and summer camps would not probably be available this year. The government was already talking about the schools opening back in September at a medium capacity, combining remote and presencial teaching.
The Executive Assistant job can be done from anywhere on Earth, as long as you have a computer connected to the internet and a mobile phone. I had been previously working at a multinational corporation where they would allow me to work remotely if my girl was sick or if I had to stay at home for whatever reason, but working from home would be the exception, not the norm.
I have been so lucky to have found this job at Tectonica and become the team’s Executive Assistant. As a progressive company, they understand the importance of finding a job-life balance. They have offered a flexible schedule from the start and the possibility of combining going to the office some days once we get to the “new normality” and working from home the rest of the days. Tectonica is a company that is more interested in accomplishing objectives and finalising tasks rather than following a fixed schedule. They are definitely an example for other organisations to follow, and I hope more and more corporations will get on board to this kind of approach.
Working remotely and homeschooling a 3 year-old is still challenging. Alexa and I have built our own home office, where we sit next to each other and work together with our laptops. I am really enjoying this time together with her and believe I have become more productive because my work and my family are at balance now.