What Moms Always Knew About Working From HomeHistorians in the News
tags: careers, quarantine, coronavirus, social distancing, workplace
When remote and flexible work policies were first introduced in the 1990s, many were offered through “women’s initiatives” and not available to the wider company. They quickly became seen as “Mommy Track” accommodations for women and working mothers in order for them to juggle work and caregiving. Managers assumed men didn’t need them, because men didn’t have to give care — a notion that’s being challenged as more men demand parental leave and take on caregiving. Men wanting to work remotely have been seen as less dedicated, and penalized. Many companies have a telework policy in name only that no one dares to use. Or, as some human resources professionals say, a “ghost benefit.”
Erin Kelly, a professor of work and organization studies at M.I.T., has found this in her research. Working flexibly from home for more than a day or two here and there, she said, “marks you as someone not playing by the regular rules.”
The coronavirus crisis may be changing those rules. Now, even C.E.O.s are openly working in their laundry rooms. Remote work can no longer be considered a perk for women or restless millennials. It is, however imperfectly done right now, a matter of life and death.
I hope this moment finally pushes us toward a new and better understanding of professionalism and performance that’s fairer to mothers and caregivers and removes one of the barriers professional women face. I hope it forces us to recognize that even as the dog barks, the kid cries, and the bowl clinks as dinner is prepared in the background, good work can be done anywhere — and by anyone.
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