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Dr. Susan Madsen speaks at the Utah Women & Leadership Project on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019.

Since my dissertation nearly 20 years ago, I have kept up with the research on work-life and telecommuting. I have read research on the pros and cons of what we all now refer to simply as “working from home” or working remotely, which has shown to be linked to (at least in past years) greater flexibility in the workforce. It’s been fascinating to watch as companies that have emphasized the importance of onsite work now transition to making working from home the new, often preferred, norm.

While I still maintain working from home can incur many benefits for women and their employers, a recent survey shows that women with children at home are paying a higher price than their male counterparts, whose careers are actually benefiting from this pandemic-induced shift.

For example, when asked how the pandemic had impacted their productivity, 77% of men with children at home reported they were more productive while working at home, compared to just 46% of women with children at home. Let’s unpack that for a minute. In their work lives, most men tend to compartmentalize. They keep family and home life separate. And when they are at work, whether in an office building or a room in the basement, work takes priority and all other identities, no matter how personally important, take a back seat.

Women, in contrast, tend to do what’s called “integration” or multitasking. So, if you work and have kids at home, you can be on a Zoom call, but you may also be tracking the toddler and making a list of items to pick up for dinner. And right now, systems that traditionally support women — like outsourcing childcare and housekeeping — are not as available as they used to be. And, as one of our previous reports has found, in Utah women tend to do more of the unpaid care work. And, the pandemic has only widened this gap.

The dads surveyed were significantly more likely than moms to say they were more productive at home because they experienced less distractions, less noise and, my personal favorite, were less accessible to random requests. Where women found the distractions (and random requests) at home harder to ignore, making them less productive.

This increased productivity has resulted in 34% of these dads reporting that they had been promoted during this time at home, compared to 9% of women; and 26% of men said they have gotten a raise but only 13% of women.

But when it came to stress levels, it’s the dads who are feeling it the most with 71% of men with children at home reporting higher stress levels during the pandemic compared to only half of the moms. Perhaps this is because it is harder for dads to keep everything in its compartment.

While there are no quick fixes, sitting down with your partner, making a list of daily and weekly responsibilities, and dividing the workload is a good start. Remember that it’s OK to ask for help. I believe that as men and women support each other, it will increase both their productivity and reduce stress. And that’s a win-win.

Dr. Susan R. Madsen is the inaugural Karen Haight Huntsman Endowed Professor of Leadership in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University and the founding director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project.

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