Back to 'Normal': Tips and Resources to Help Navigate Work Amid COVID-19

Published on: Aug 26, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
Back to Normal theSkimm

If you tuned into our Back to “Normal” Power Panel on August 26, thank you. ICYMI, here’s a quick recap of what you missed:

  • How to create safer workplaces for women

  • What hopeful changes can come out of the pandemic for working women

  • How women can get back into the workforce after leaving their job during the pandemic

(Psst...you can also watch the event here.)

As a follow-up to our conversation with Fatima Goss Graves, Ai-jen Poo, Tina Tchen, and Tami Forman, here are some tips and resources to help you find your new “normal.”

Talking to Your Manager

At the start of the pandemic, WFH seemed like a temporary fix. (Think: 70% of Americans were WFH in April 2020, according to one Gallup poll.) And while that number has declined as the pandemic continues, nearly two-thirds of millennial women say working remotely is a priority. If that includes you, here are some tips for talking to your manager about it...

  • Give your manager a heads-up. When scheduling the meeting – whether via direct communication on Slack or sending a Google calendar invite – let them know that you’d like to talk about the possibility of continuing to work from home. That prevents them from being blindsided and helps them prepare for their side of the convo.

  • Make a plan. Before having the talk, know what you’re going to say. Here are some talking points to have ready…

    • Come in with a schedule and communication plan. Examples: logging on at 9am and logging off at 5pm, sending a start-of-day note to your team to let them know when you’re online.

    • If you have care responsibilities – whether for a child or an adult – address those concerns head-on and explain how you plan to multitask.

    • Explain why it makes sense to WFH – not just for you, but for the company (think: greater productivity, fewer costs associated with coming into the office). Using data to prove your point can help out your case.

  • Be prepared for any outcome. After your convo, keep an open mind and be flexible. You may not get an outright ‘yes’ (remember: your boss may need to discuss this with their boss too). But you may be able to negotiate other options, like working from home a couple of days a week. You could even offer up a WFH trial period, which gives you, your manager, and team a chance to test out the setup. Your company may also want everyone back in the office, period. If that’s their decision, you may want to reflect on your priorities: Is it more important that you have flexible work accommodations, or that you stay at your current company?

If a permanent WFH situation is in your future, we’ve got tips for staying productive and mentally healthy.

And speaking of mental health, if you’ve been feeling burnt out with work, or feel anxious about the return to “normal,” you might want to have a candid talk with your manager. The suggestions above can help you out. Remember: Give advance notice that you want to chat about your mental health. Explain how you’re feeling and why, and come up with solutions to solve the problem.

  • Some ideas: Taking a couple of days off from work to reset. Restructuring your work schedule to give yourself ‘sacred time’ throughout the day. Or asking for an extension on a certain project.

Experts say it’s important to be open and honest. Your manager may not know how you’re feeling. Or, on the flip side, they may be feeling the exact same way that you are. Having an open dialogue can help your manager navigate what’s best for you and your team.

Knowing Your Rights in the Workplace

Whether on the state or federal level, there are laws in place to help protect you and other workers – so it’s important to know your rights.

There are more than 180 federal laws that protect millions of other American workers, covering everything from discrimination and workplace safety to the minimum wage and family leave. You can find out more about federal employment laws and how to take action if your rights have been violated here.

But it’s not just up to the federal government to ensure that workers are treated fairly. States also have their own labor departments that enforce employment rights. Example: Even though there is a federal minimum wage, states can establish higher wages if they want. You can find your state’s labor department here, and dig into the local labor laws.

One issue that has been particularly difficult for working women throughout the pandemic is scheduling conflicts, whether it’s to take care of a child or relative, or trying to go back to school part-time. States and cities have laws around fair work schedules that protect employees. Check them out here.

Learning and Speaking Up About Legislation

Speaking of workplace rights, federal lawmakers have introduced and voted on a number of bills that can help protect women in the workplace. That includes… 

  • Equality Act

    • Details: The bill bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity when it comes to employment (among other things).

    • Status: Passed in the House

  • Healthy Families Act

    • Details: The bill lets workers earn paid sick time so they can take care of themselves or their families’ health needs.

    • Status: Intro’d in the Senate

  • Paycheck Fairness Act

    • Details: The bill aims to close the gender wage gap by protecting employees from retaliation if they inquire about their employer’s wage practices. And it requires employers to explain what wage differences are based on other than sex (think: education or other training), among other things.

    • Status: Passed in the House; blocked in the Senate

  • Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

    • Details: The bill bans employment practices that discriminate against making reasonable accommodations for employees dealing with pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. 

    • Status: Passed in the House

  • PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act

    • Details: The bill expands access to breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace.

    • Status: Intro’d in the Senate

And something else that could also be helpful for working women: In August, Congress passed a $3.5 trillion budget plan that paves the way for universal pre-K and paid family leave. The move is seen as a win for President Biden and his agenda.

If you want your elected official(s) to take action on any of these items, here’s how you can find their contact info to let them know.

theSkimm

The pandemic has been an especially difficult time for women in the workplace. And going back to “normal” may not be as easy as it sounds. But taking the time to outline your priorities when it comes to work and writing down the non-negotiable must-haves (think: working remotely or hybrid) in this new era of work can help you figure out your next step.

Psst…Want to learn more? Watch our Back to “Normal” Power Panel here.

Skimm'd by Maria McCallen and Kamini Ramdeen


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