The COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of people to work from home, creating a paradigm shift in the way work is done. The shift resulted in a noticeable increase in productivity, and employees worldwide benefited from the flexibility that comes with working remotely. However, as vaccination rates increase and the pandemic becomes less of a threat, many companies are calling employees back to the office.
While many people welcome the return to the office, others are fighting back against the new mandate. One group that is speaking out is working mothers of young children: myself included in that group.
Here are 4 reasons why mandating employees return to the office not only doesn't work, but may discriminate against working mothers of young children:
#1 Productivity is better when working remotely
Numerous studies show that working from home can increase productivity. Employees can work in a more comfortable environment, with fewer distractions than in the office. Remote work is less stressful and more accommodating to personal schedules, enabling workers to maintain a better work-life balance.
#2 Discrimination against working mothers
Requiring employees to return to the office may discriminate against working mothers of young children. When children were forced to learn from home, working mothers had to juggle work, homeschooling, and household responsibilities.
When the pandemic forced remote work, these mothers found relief in being able to work from home while caring for their children. Requiring them to return to the office would mean they would need to hire additional childcare to accommodate school bus pickups and drop offs, which is expensive and may not always be possible - especially finding someone trustworthy and reliable when family is not nearby. Companies that don't provide accommodations for working mothers may risk losing valuable, diverse talent from this group of multi-tasking, creative ninjas.
The shift to remote work has provided employees with the flexibility they need to work around their personal schedules. This include but are not limited to car maintenance, meal prep, dentist and doctor's appointments (for self and each child), and even - gasp - being able to exercise!
Requiring employees to return to the office could remove this flexibility, and arguably the time moms so desperately needed for self care, leading to resentment among workers who are now used to, and are just as productive, working from home.
Costs and commute
Working from home has allowed employees to save on commuting costs, and many companies have saved on office rent. Returning to the office would mean that employees would have to bear the cost of commuting, from the high price of gas and time wasted in traffic to the daily cost of train fare and lot parking - not to mention accounting for train delays and cancellations.
Personal family situations have also evolved during the past three years: perhaps there is only one family car that has car seats to pick up children - how is a 2nd parent able to pick up the kids if the first parent must be in an office until 5pm? Then employees could be saddled with an additional car purchase, monthly payment and insurance increase. Without a salary increase following a mandate, this would be a difficult change for working parents to accommodate.
The Bottom Line
Mandating employees to return to the office may not be the best decision for many employees, particularly working mothers of young children. The shift to remote work has provided employees with greater productivity and flexibility, and it would be a mistake to remove these benefits. Companies that insist on a return to the office without considering the needs of their employees risk losing valuable talent, especially among the rockstars that are working mothers.
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If you know someone who was recently laid off, it's one thing to feel bad for them. Its another to offer to help.
Not only can you offer to put them in touch with your network, or someone you know is hiring - but if you worked closely with the person, one way you can really help them is to write a LinkedIn recommendation highlighting their strengths to help them get their next role.
If you find yourself staring at a blank screen - especially if you aren't a writer to begin with - this can be intimidating. Here are the steps that I follow, and it does take a little bit of time - but it's worth it. So I'll walk you through it:
1 - Set the stage: how did you work together?
This just provides a bit of context on how you know this person and how you worked together: think of it as an introduction before you dive right into how awesome they are. Did they report to you? How did you work together? Did you collaborate on a specific project? How long did you know them or work together for?
2 - Ask them what you would like them to highlight
It's perfectly valid to ask the person what specifically they'd like you to highlight. If they asked you to write the recommendation, see what they'd like you to focus on...for example, if they had a sales role but want to transition to more of a customer service position, stress their skill in dealing with clients using examples. As part of this, ask if there are 3-5 bullets they'd like you to focus on as something you can reference while writing your recommendation. That way, you have some guidance on what to write, and you know you are writing something that will be helpful to them. Everyone wins :)
3 - Add a personal touch
I like to end each recommendation with a personal note: sometimes it is an opportunity to show potential employers their personality a bit, which is always difficult to understand especially when determining a cultural fit. Something like, "on a personal note, Sam has a great sense of humor and I have really enjoyed working with him every day. He would make a great asset to any organization" This gives them a feel-good compliment while adding a more human layer to their qualifications.
The Bottom Line
It's important to keep your LinkedIn profile updated, and the best thing you can do for a coworker who has lost their job is to offer to write a recommendation for them. It doesn't have to be a book, but should be a thoughtful few sentences to help position them favorably for their next position.
After writing a recent post on what to do if you get laid off, I thought it would be helpful to expand on what you should be doing with your LinkedIn profile. So whether you are currently looking for your next job or are happily employed, here are some tips everyone can apply to their LinkedIn profile presence.
1 - Work on while employed, not just while you are looking
Don't neglect your LinkedIn profile if you are not looking for a new job. This should be an asset of yours that should be updated regularly. Execute a great project? Update your profile, and link to it so you can reference it later, or show off your work to future employers. Did you run some metrics for the quarter and you saw some favorable improvements? Add a bulllet to your current role description sharing how you helped increase leads, revenue, etc. x% over whatever time period. These types of activities are all so much easier to do as they happen instead of months or years later, when trying to remember your greatest accomplishments so you can talk about them today.
2 - Ask for recommendations.
I'm always looking for opportunities to get fresh LinkedIn recommendations - both from people I work with directly, but also those in different departments and levels. All of this demonstrates my ability to work cross-functionally, which is a real strength regardless of your position.
That being said, it can be intimidating for people to start from scratch - so don't just blast people with open-ended LinkedIn recommendation requests: often you may not get a response. In your request, I would provide bullets on what you'd like them to focus on - which should contain keywords describing your expertise. For example, ask them to describe your role in a recent project you worked together on, or stress your leadership skills if you are looking to move up in your next role, etc. Not only is this a lot easier for people to do, but it provides some validating content on what you want to be known for.
3 - Customize your URL
This sounds like a basic one, but you are able to customize your LinkedIn URL. It's so much easier to share a link that is your profile name, instead of a bunch of numbers. Depending on when you read this, the instructions may change: but today, if you are on your LinkedIn profile page, the top right has an option to "Edit Public Profile & URL" where you can customize the text. Mine is simply www.linkedin.com/in/ashleyosgood which is my maiden name (there are a LOT of Ashley McManus, and I want to stand out!)
4 - Invest in a professional headshot
Please, please don't use that photo of you from a wedding. Yes you look amazing, but you also need to look clean and professional. Either invest in a professional headshot or get a friend to take one up close with a simple backdrop, zoomed in and cropped at the shoulder.
Think about how you want to be portrayed: what vibe do you want to give off? Hair up or down? Glasses? Clothes? Accessories? How can you portray your creativity in you headshot? All things to consider.
5 - Brevity is your friend
Similar to resumes, we don't need gobs of text to describe your roles, summary and focus areas. Think about keywords again and get to the point: how can you bring value to an organization? Why would someone hire you? What tone can you use to attract the company you want?
The Bottom Line
LinkedIn is a huge source for hiring managers, recruiters and other roles at your future employer. Put your best foot forward and give your profile some love today, or schedule some time over the next few weeks on your calendar to make some updates. Think about who you can ask to recommend you, and make sure you file away the action item to update your profile with links whenever you accomplish something great, so you will be able easily reference this in the future.
I'm a motivated, self-starting marketer and working mom looking to make a difference in the world - one story at a time.
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