Written by Nicole Mineau
Before COVID-19, one quarter of the US workforce worked remotely, at least some of the time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This includes workers who were part of a large company, small business, or working for themselves as a freelance or contract worker. Some worked from home, a coffee shop, or at a co-working space depending on what suited them and their individual and professional needs. Many find that remote working provides less distractions, attracts better and more diverse talent, and increases productivity. Some companies even provide a co-working “allowance” to their employees to use towards co-working spaces. After all, it’s still saving employers money to not have their entire staff work full-time in centralized, expensive office space. Co-working establishments were starting to add more amenities, many with a focus on wellness and health; including yoga, Peloton bikes, and even childcare, like at The Coggeshall Club, for those with little ones not yet in school, all providing the flexibility that we need for our families’ well-being.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more employers are recognizing that large percentages of their workforces can productively work from home, on their time, with video meetings as needed – those without young children that is. The juggle became real as parents took turns caring for their children in the morning or during a meeting, switching duties throughout the day. Some, on the other hand, often must care for children on their own, while the other parent works. Even Canada’s Prime Minster, Justin Trudeau, had to run a country and parent alone while his wife with COVID-19 had to quarantine. Nap time or when the kids finally go to sleep, becomes the only real time when anything gets done, if parents are not too tired. Yes, parents are appreciating more time with their little ones and more time at home without having to drive to work and to school and all things. It’s a break from the everyday hustle.
However, as the weeks of isolation continue, the emotional toll on parents without breaks or help will certainly wear on them. Centuries ago, families operated as part of villages, with the whole community helping with the family demands. Before COVID-19, modern day villages consist of help from extended family, neighbors, friends, babysitters, daycares and schools. Now, any help (if you were lucky enough to have a small village to help you) has been stripped away. Reiterating that the only way work-life integration works, is with help and support.
Once the COVID-19 outbreak settles and businesses can re-open, remote working will be on the rise, especially since many large companies may not open right away and will do so with social distancing restrictions in place. People may be more selective about high traffic co-working establishments or coffee shops and will choose clean, safe and smaller places to work that aren’t in high contact with the everyday general public.
Additionally, our parents will especially have even more of a need for safe, reliable, childcare while they work. Even more so, working from home in isolation needs balance (regardless of COVID). Co-working establishments with flexible childcare, fitness, and wellness (or at least some of these amenities) will be in high demand as they reduce parent’s everyday commuting stress to the different locations at an overall reduced cost; all while supporting their physical and mental health needs. Now, more than ever, employers can see that the emotional well-being of their employees is a crucial health benefit to their success. Our economy can’t afford to have parents not working. They will do so more and more efficiently if they can feed and bond with their babies, after maternity leave AND get out of the house to comfortably (and safely) work with their little ones close by. Our families need flexibility, they need community, they need easy access to exercise, and they absolutely need quality childcare (even if it is just for a couple of hours a day), to provide that sanity check we all need to remain productive, cared for, and most importantly, connected.