It’s become something of an annual tradition for me to write a reflection for Women’s Equality Day. Last year, I wrote about considerations for fostering an inclusive environment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, we’ve learned even more about supporting our teams through challenging times—and the importance of building resiliency in navigating this prolonged season.
With the boundaries blurring between work and home, the past 18 months have illuminated deep disparities across the workplace related to gender, specifically those that impact working women. While this trend is apparent across all industries, it’s particularly relevant for predominately female industries like marketing and public relations. Since the beginning of the pandemic, women have reported feeling exhausted at work at much higher rates than their male counterparts—39% of working mothers, compared to just 31% of fathers—with even higher rates for women in senior positions and women of color. Nearly 1.8 million women have left the workforce entirely amid the pandemic, with another 18% of mothers considering leaving compared to just 11% of fathers. This is even more pronounced for women with children under 10 years old.
With schools out, kids busy at summer camps and states (and daycares) opening back up over the past several months, summer may have provided a bit of a reprieve. But as kids go back to school—possibly in another hybrid model—and many office reopenings stall due to the Delta variant, the challenges for the at-home workforce will likely resurface.
As a mother working in a women-dominated industry for most of my career, I’ve seen firsthand how critical it is for organizations to provide the right resources for all employees to grow professionally without sacrificing personal well-being. The pandemic has reinforced that the concept of maintaining separate but balanced lives at work and home is not only outdated but unattainable—you don’t forget you’re a mom when you’re at work, or vice versa. That’s why building resilience, the ability to withstand, adapt and recover under pressure, is an integral part of teamwork and leadership. As an agency, we can help our colleagues build resilience by offering programs and support that allow people to manage their personal energy the way they deem best.
Some of the things we are doing to support the teams at Spectrum Science include:
Geographic fluidity and flexibility are tenets of our culture. Spectrumites determine their individual schedule in concert with their manager, giving people like working mothers the opportunity and comfort to take care of responsibilities when it works best for them, both at home and in the workplace.
The pandemic changed the way many of us work. To help staff adapt to these changes, we brought in consultants Amanda Mitchell and Julia Douglas to lead boundary setting and accountability trainings, respectively. In concert with the development of customized norms for each team, these facilitated sessions are set up for a collaborative effort to establish expectations and create an empathetic environment that ensures everyone has time to focus on the things most important in life while continuing to deliver excellence across all client programs.
Mental Health Resources
During the pandemic, 4 in 10 US adults reported having symptoms of anxiety or depression disorder, up from 1 in 10 in 2019. The pandemic has had an impact on our mental health, and we recognize the importance of having access to mental health resources. Spectrum has engaged two companies, Headspace and Ginger, to support our employees’ mental health. At the start of the pandemic, we provided every staff member with a subscription to the leading mental health app, Headspace. We’re also excited to launch with Ginger, an on-demand mental health support service, next month. This will provide employees with 24/7, unlimited text coaching on a variety of topics, as well as eight counseling sessions, at no cost to them.
As the Delta variant continues to put “return-to-normal” plans on hold, employees all around the country, particularly women and people of color, will continue to be challenged by the effects of the pandemic. I am truly grateful to be a part of an organization that continues to prioritize its people and am optimistic about our ability to support one another through whatever comes next.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Andrea Sessler, Chief Human Resources Officer.