Working from home, e-learning, sheltering in place — the whole family together, day in and day out. One activity overlaps into the next until the seemingly never-ending day comes to an end, only to start anew the next morning. This isn't unfamiliar territory for many employees, particularly women. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, their work day never really ended. It changed. During their “second shift,” they were taking care of their children and aging parents, getting a meal on the table, and managing any number of other household obligations. You might say that at least for now, this is the "new normal," blurring the lines for those working the "second shift" and amplifying all the challenges that come along with it.
These second shift duties are unpaid, of course, and can often get in the way of the self-care required for people to feel their best. While this imbalance can make a huge impact on their (paid) work performance and engagement, it also leads to higher levels of stress and stress-related health conditions like mood disorders, heart disease, and diabetes.
Let's take a closer look at the pre-COVID-19 numbers:
- In 2015, 70% of moms with kids younger than 18 were in the labor force, up from 47% in 1975. (dol.gov)
- Mothers are the primary breadwinners in four-in-ten U.S. families, compared with 11 percent in 1960. (dol.gov)
- Over the past 20 years, highly educated women have experienced particularly dramatic increases in motherhood. In 2014, 80% of women ages 40 to 44 with a Ph.D. or professional degree had given birth, compared with 65% in 1994. (Pew Research)
- In 2016, moms spent around 25 hours a week on paid work, up from nine hours in 1965. At the same time, they spent 14 hours a week on child care, up from 10 hours a week in 1965. (Pew Research)
- Women do 2.6 times the amount of unpaid care and domestic work that men do. (unwomen.org)
- Among the 12% of parents who are also providing unpaid care for an adult, moms spend more time than dads on caregiving activities. (Pew Research)
- Women have higher incidences than men of certain mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. They also experience more work-related burnout than men. (Eaton et al. 2012; academic.oup.com)
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the second-shift-as-the-new-normal is an even greater challenge:
- 57% of women with children under the age of 18 say that worry or stress related to the coronavirus has negatively impacted their mental health and are more likely to report negative impacts to their mental health than their male counterparts. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- 31% of women who work full-time and have partners and children are more than twice as likely as men in the same situation to feel that they have more to do than they can possibly handle. They are spending an average of:
- 7.4 more hours per week than men on childcare
- 5.3 more hours caring for elderly or sick relatives, and
- at least 7 more hours than men on housework. (LeanIn.org)
- Post COVID-19, Millennial working mothers mostly want more flexibility for themselves or their partners (30%). (Motherly)
This is why it's more important than ever for employers to offer family-friendly, easy-to-access wellbeing resources that help all employees manage the key lifestyle areas of physical fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress, mental health, and even financial wellbeing.
Employers can provide resources to help employees recover from the mind/body stressors they experience at work — and feel their best. Don’t miss 3 Reasons to Support Your Stressed-Out Employees with Whole-Person Wellbeing and Bringing Wellbeing to Everyone During the COVID-19 Pandemic to learn more.