Use the Work Lessons of the Pandemic to Help New Parents

MGoogle’s first woman to be granted maternity leave was me more than 20 years ago.

But I almost didn’t come back to work after my first baby was born. I felt too exhausted to be away from my baby while trying to balance my work and family life. It would have changed my career if I made another decision at that time.

That’s one of the reasons why I’ve long advocated for better maternity leave policies. As I went on my fifth maternity leave, 2014 was the first time I had written about how offering such a benefit to businesses.

Our work habits are changing. The pandemic showed us that we don’t have to sit in a cubicle to be productive in our jobs. For new parents, flexibility is crucial for their work.

That’s why I’m glad that starting today Googlers will have an additional three months to work from home after their family leave ends. This policy will add to our newly announced 24-week increase in paid maternal leave.

I remember what it’s like to work from an office while wondering what’s happening with your baby at home. It means you can’t check in to make sure they’re sleeping and eating well and happy. And if you’re breastfeeding, it means remembering pumping supplies, cleaning the equipment, storing milk, and rushing home to make sure to arrive for your baby’s feeding.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Parents with remote jobs should have the ability to work remotely while still meeting all of their daily needs.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, and it’s taken a particular toll on women. Research also shows that some parents with young children have seen the benefits of the pandemic. Brookings recently published an analysis that found the percentage of mothers with college degrees who are parenting toddlers or infants increased in 2018 compared to 2018.

Working from home has opened up possibilities we didn’t think were possible before. It was difficult to envision YouTube being run with all employees working remotely at the time of the pandemic. But we did.

We weren’t the only company to keep up with business demands while out of the office. Pew Research Center released a February report showing that 90% of those surveyed said they were able to work remotely while coping with the pandemic.

Although there are many benefits of working with others in person such as the opportunity to share ideas, learn from and build relationships and network, it is also beneficial to work remotely. This allows us to cut down on our commutes, make time to exercise, be closer to family, and enjoy more quality time together. At YouTube, we’ve adopted a hybrid schedule, and we’ve offered our employees the option to apply to work remotely on a permanent basis.

Flexibility is essential not only for employees but also for society in general. Companies should reconsider what they need to do in person for conferences and business trips so that more people of diverse backgrounds are able to participate online.

Not everyone can work from home. People who work at hospitals, restaurants, pharmacies, or in manufacturing can’t attend meetings virtually or work from a home office. And there’s a persistent problem that people with higher incomes benefit from leave policies while those making lower incomes do not. BLS data shows that only 23% of Americans had paid leave for family reasons last year.

America is the only OECD nation that doesn’t provide paid parental leave.

There is still much to be done to make leaving more affordable for all. That’s why this issue continues to be a top priority.

We have learned new ways of working because of the pandemic. These lessons on flexibility should be taken into consideration as we progress and allow new parents to work from home.

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