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Working moms are struggling to engage at work — and it will cost the economy $341B

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, juggling both work and home life has taken an even bigger toll on working moms, according to a new study.
Dr. Laura Sherbin, an economist and managing director of Culture@Work, with her four children.
Dr. Laura Sherbin, an economist and managing director of Culture@Work, with her four children. Courtesy of Dr. Laura Sherbin

Working moms already face an enormous amount of pressure to juggle both work and home life. Throw in COVID-19 and the family all together under the same roof 24/7, and you have a recipe for a perfect storm.

In fact, 81 percent of employed moms said their ability to engage effectively at work has been negatively impacted by COVID-19, according to a new study by Bonnier Custom Insights, a division of Working Mother Media’s parent company Bonnier Corporation. The survey was taken online by 549 of Working Mother readers from March 27 to April 9.

Over half of the respondents (55 percent) said they have trouble engaging effectively at work because they are experiencing anxiety or stress due to the current uncertainty in their personal life. And a significant portion of working moms, 27 percent, said their emotional state is currently terrible or poor.

“…They are worried for their children, their households and their careers,” said Dr. Laura Sherbin, an economist and managing director of Culture@Work, a division of Working Mother Media.

“At the household level, we observe significant challenges beyond just the logistical. Working parents and moms, who are lucky enough to have their job right now are unable to do what they need to do to deliver across multiple demands. Nearly half of working moms are sacrificing rest and sleep and are not experiencing support,” she added.

A similar poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, conducted March 25 to 30 found nearly half of people in the U.S. say the pandemic has affected their mental health, with 19 percent reporting a “major impact."

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And the fallout from this stress and anxiety will make a big impact on the economy.

Sherbin estimated that working moms’ coronavirus-related anxiety will cost the economy a whopping $341 billion. She derived the number based on Gallup, which found that the cost of work disengagement is 34 percent of a person’s salary. So, if there are 31 million working moms who make an average of $40,000, that equates to the $341 billion.

So, what can be done to help lower working moms’ stress and anxiety so they can be as productive as possible?

“This is a big time for growth for everyone and the most important takeaway from this time is how we need to evolve and improve our lives,” said executive career coach Liz Bentley, who is not affiliated with the study.

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Bentley added, “For women, this means it is finally time to divide the parenting and household responsibilities more clearly and with better boundaries. If women are working and also doing most of the caring for the children, they are unfairly sacrificing their careers. Instead, they need to create better boundaries and fight for equality in their relationship so that all of their work and worry is not on them.”

Bentley said that working moms in return need to be willing to give up some of the control and allow their spouses to find their own way of doing things.

“This will help everyone in the long run and will create a better family dynamic, career success for both parents equally and happier employers," Bentley said. "For so long, we have wanted more women in the boardroom and the C-suite and they can’t get their without the support."

Employers can help too. Sherbin stressed management needs to proactively check in with their employees and offer targeted support.

“At each team level, there needs to be a resetting of how work gets done with the assumption that this new normal isn’t the old normal, just virtual,” Sherbin noted. “At the company level, offering tools and resources for those with existing and new mental health conditions is paramount to helping employees, and their companies, come out of this crisis.”