Before the pandemic, Gail Cornwall spoke primarily of other people’s children, not her own.
This 40-year-old woman writes about parenting and education, and something that before the pandemic she mostly did while her children were in school.
But that began to change with the restrictions and he was seen at home with the five minors between 6 and 17 years old.
“Now alonetwo have gone back to school and part-time, “says Cornwall, who lives in San Francisco, California, United States.
Therefore, lately he talks a lot about them.
She often begins work calls by explaining that her house is full of children and that they might interrupt you while you’re in the meeting.
“I think it is more professional to warn that this can happen, than to be interrupted without anyone expecting it.”
His pace of work it has also changed.
“When it comes to setting deadlines, the truth is that I have had to push back the dates, give myself more time,” he says.
“I see myself answering things like, ‘I can probably make those changes in two weeks. But let’s say four, just in case, since with the children at home things always come up“.
Over the past year, many of us have found ourselves needing to talk about the personal responsibilities while managing professional ones.
Before the pandemic, workers had no real obligation to share anything about their lives with their bosses.
In larger organizations, HR departments likely only knew names, addresses, and the date employees had their birthday.
But with at covid-19 we take the work home and suddenly we had to share more aspects with our bosses and colleagues, because our private lives began to develop during working hours.
Some of this has been positive.
There is a feeling that giving our bosses more information about the circumstances, responsibilities and even the health of our home could result in greater conciliation.
But questions also arise such as how much we want to share with our bosses and what things can be seen as a privacy violation.
Also on the table is the question of how companies will use that information.
Intrusion or details needed?
In August, the Forward Institute, a UK-based non-profit body, published a report examining how organizations had responded to COVID-19, including an assessment of what it called the “fundamental change in what employers know and need to know about personal circumstances of your employees. “
Through interviews with leaders of several major major organizations, the researchers found that none of them “knew of the working conditions in the home of their staff before the crisis.”
After all, they point out, before homes became workplaces, “the questions of the bosses to the employees about the circumstances of their homes and their families would have been considered an unwarranted interference in the private life”.
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But these kinds of inquiries and policy changes based on the information gleaned became important when the pandemic struck, says Ruth Turner, senior director of the Forward Institute, as companies encountered the renewed duty to care for your employees.
“When the schools closed, the children began to appear sitting on their parents’ laps during meetings by Zoom. The elderly relatives they live with and care for were present in the back of the room, “he says.
A lots of employers reacted by increasing flexibility, he adds, understanding that the employees who are also parents and caregivers and that they were juggling huge loads.
For some people, the simple act of appearing in a video has been revealing.
Before the rise of remote work, no boss needed to know the daily details of people who live in the basement of their parents’ house because they got divorced or are in overwhelming debt, or who share a tiny flat with three other adults, for example.
Now, you need to share at least snippets of this, not just to provide context to what appears in Zoom calls, It’s because employers might have to help make those situations more work-friendly.
A recent study, conducted with more than 30,000 workers around the world, revealed that more than 40% lack essential office supplies at home, and one in 10 does not have the type of internet connection they need to do their job well.
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As managers analyze whether their teams can continue to work remotely, they will also need to determine what obligation does the company have to solve these problems.
“If we transition into this hybrid world where people have to do their work at home, or choose to do it, who must rpay for the connection wifi?“says Turner.
“If someone can only sit on their bed, does that mean they cannot work from home?”, Because a situation may be incompatible with the health and safety policy of the company.
“All of these are interesting questions for which no one has an answer yet. “
Will they treat me differently?
Beyond talking about caregiving responsibilities or household circumstances, some people had to disclose health problems that they had previously kept private.
“Almost immediately, some workers felt they had to talk about their long-term illnesses or disabilities because it put them in a category of risk,” says Turner.
“It’s possible that it has a an illness that you previously did not need to report to your boss about, but that in the face of covid-19 it has made it very vulnerable. All of these private domain issues were suddenly made public. “
People who have disabilities or health conditions and injuries constitute 10% of the world’s workforce, says Brendan Roach, director of strategy and networkingat PurpleSpace, a London-based network of professional development resources for disabled employees.
But because the problems are not obvious, bosses may not have a clue that they have employees with disabilities.
“Many have disabilities that are not visible or that aren’t immediately apparent, like dyslexia, anxiety, and even diabetes, “says Roach.
“What the pandemic has done is change the things your company needs to know about your health. In a way, that’s very good: normalizes conversations about health and work“.
But, Roach adds, there are also valid reasons why people with invisible disabilities chose not to disclose that information before the pandemic.
“There is a certain degree of fear. If I tell my employer that I have this condition, will they treat me differently or will my career slow down? This is an important factor for people who have disabilities. “
Fundamental trust issue
Historically, many employees have chosen to keep a low profile at work and not share any of their personal affairs.
Part of this is due to simple privacy concerns, but for many, this choice stems from the real fear that the more a boss knows, the more vulnerable consider them.
For example, before the pandemic, many parents in corporate settings practiced “secret parenting” to avoid the stigma of appearing helpless, unfocused, or lacking in commitment.
It is not an imagined risk: between 2006 and 2015, in the United States the cases of discrimination in the workplace due to family responsibilities.
The pandemic may have forced the release of information about family responsibilities and the home environment and, indeed, chronic health conditions and disabilities.
But that doesn’t mean the reasons for not wanting to share that information before they have disappeared.
Turner says the responsibility for making sure these fears don’t come true rests with employers.
Also that the information is used responsibly.
“It’s a fundamental underlying trust issue,” he says.
“If someone feels that their boss really cares about them or that they strike a balance between their needs and those of the organization, it is likely that person feel more inclined to tell what your disability is or what health concerns you have. “
Even organizations with a high degree of trust between their leaders and their employees “can’t take advantage of it,” says Turner.
“People have a legitimate expectation that if they disclose something that they would normally have kept private it will remain the confidentiality. Data privacy issues come to the fore. Workers need to know why they are being asked those questions, who will have access to that information, and what the company will do with it. “
Roach has an optimistic view.
believes that the cultural shift that is making jobs work for people Instead of people having to adapt, it starts with having closer and closer bosses.
“Leaders have become more human in the last year, “he says.
“Their subordinates see them in their living rooms, in their comfortable clothes.”
In turn, some of those more humanized leaders move towards building work environments that recognize the individual needs of their employees, creating spaces where the personal and the professional can overlap.
And if the long-lasting effect of the abrupt need to be more open with our employers brings more flexible workplaces that can accommodate the responsibilities, challenges, and complications that are part of our lives, perhaps workers consider sacrificing a little privacy worth.
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