“It’s Organized Chaos – Everyone’s Just Gotten Used to It.”
Rita Barry, Strategic Cloud Alliance Manager, IL
Katie Branch, Manager Mainframe Systems Training & Development, AR
Violette Sieczka, Marketing Director, Brand, Global Programs & Product Marketing, IL
Moms have experienced a seismic shift in their lives since the world began to confront COVID-19. Many have been under stay-at home orders for over two months. Most schools have transitioned to home schooling, and it’s unclear how and when schools will reopen.
With global unemployment projected at a total of 305 full time jobs lost in Q2 due to COVID-191, those moms lucky enough to still be working, are mostly working remotely: juggling conference calls with school lessons, prepping lunches while making calls, and getting up early and staying up late to catch up. A recent LinkedIn/USA Today survey2 on working from home during COVID-19 found that 66% of women were primarily responsible for helping children with distance learning during the workday. Even so, the same survey2 found that 54% of respondents said that working from home had a positive effect on their productivity. Why? No commute (71%), and fewer distractions from co-workers (61%) topped the list.
So how are working moms making it work and what works for them? We checked in with some Ensono associates to see.
Meet Rita Barry, Katie Branch and Violette Sieczka. All worked at Ensono offices in the US full-time prior to COVID-19 and have been working full time from home since mid-March. Rita, a cloud alliance manager from suburban Chicago has twin 2-1/2 year old boys, Katie, a training manager from the Little Rock area has three children: 5, 8 and 17. And Violette, a marketing director, also from suburban Chicago, has a boy, 7. Here’s what they had to say.3
On time management:
Rita: My day starts earlier than ever. I’m up at 5am to get ready for the day. I try and do a few hours of emails before I have the boys…I am working more not just because of the kids, but also just being able to use the commute time for work.
Katie: Right now, I don't have to put on makeup or get fully dressed to work. So, I get up early and try to address phone calls and e-mail as best that I can before my youngest gets up.
Violette: My day starts earlier, and I make up more time either at night working late and on the weekend. For me, I get a lot done over the weekend when I can just hunker down and get things done for a few hours, while my husband takes my son outside.
Rita: I think I'm more productive right now. We’re juggling a little bit more. But it’s doable in between calls to be able focus on the things that we need to focus on. It’s actually easier to communicate with people now: it’s quicker to get and give updates.
Katie: I manage a group of young interns, so it was critical for me to be on site before. It’s been an interesting transition to manage them from home. There's always something to do, or something to work on or something to set up. And they can’t just swing by my desk and say, hey, how do you do this? We get on more Teams meetings and phone calls, and I’m trying to over-communicate without micro-managing, which takes a lot of time. It can be a challenge to find time to work on my own strategic efforts.
Violette: For me personally, I feel less productive at home, even though I’m working more hours. Mostly because things I’d do around the house when I got home from work or on the weekend, just aren’t getting done.
On working, home-schooling and childcare
Katie: Trying to work and trying to do home schooling at the same time – I’m not a schoolteacher – the biggest challenge for me is working with children that are all on different grade levels. I'm not just homeschooling one grade, I'm home schooling three grades at the same time.
Violette: I'm trying to teach my son, review and submit the lessons in between my work meetings. We incorporate learning whenever we can: we were outside doing landscaping and I was teaching math at the same time; we’ll cook together and work on suffixes. I’m just trying to incorporate lessons when I can and use real life examples – I can't always help him exactly when he needs it, because I have to take care of my own work, but we do our best. I block out lunchtime for him: we’ll make lunch together and go for a walk or bike ride if we can.
Rita: My kids are younger and not in school: I just try to make things fun and keep them occupied but really, it’s controlled chaos. We’ve turned the house into a playground, with a bouncy house, train tables, indoor slides and toys everywhere. We used to have a strict no screen time policy before this, but now we allow two hours a day, especially if I’m on a call. I prep crafts and projects for them the night before too.
On what’s the hardest part of working from home
Rita: The hardest part is the juggling – I've always been a very schedule-driven person. And now I just feel like, oh my goodness, I am crumbling, inadequate. So, I just try and do my best.
Katie: I think the hardest part for me is working through the feeling of guilt and feeling like I'm unproductive on both levels from a personal and a work level. Typically, I am very organized, very structured, very scheduled. There are always a million things on my plate at work – I just have to prioritize what I can get done in a day. I also kind of miss just having the chance to be truly alone. That just doesn’t happen now.
Violette: The juggling: it’s not easy to answer my son’s school questions if I’m on a conference call. Answering emails gets done at night or on the weekend, so I always feel like I’m “on” and continuously going – there are no breaks.
On continuing to work from home after COVID-19
Rita: I had never considered working from home before. But now that I see what it would be like, I’d like the option to continue to work from home.
Katie: Well, I had worked from home for many years prior to coming to Ensono, so I know it can work. I would definitely like to be able to work from a bit more, when this is all over.
Violette: I used to work from home once a week every so often – adding a few more days to that a week would be appreciated and welcomed. Not sure I’m ready to do full-time home but definitely at least three days working from home.
While working longer hours and struggling with the challenges of doing it all—Rita, Katie, and Violette remain grateful and optimistic, though maybe a bit sleep deprived. They acknowledge that their transition to working from home was less abrupt than most, since they work for an organization that already has a large remote workforce. They are all truly thankful that they have the resources to keep their families safe and healthy, while so many others are struggling. As Violette remarked, “However hard it is juggling my little guy and working from home, I’m so grateful because I normally wouldn’t get to spend this much time with him…our bond has changed in a good way.”
International Labour Organization, ILO Monitor Third Edition: COVID-19 and the World of Work. https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_743036/lang--en/index.htm
“Working At Home Had A Positive Effect On Productivity During The Pandemic.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/05/04/coronavirus-pandemic-might-game-changer-working-home/3061862001/
Note: Interviews have been lightly edited and condensed.