Voices

Working from home is not a choice

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This was not a choice. People didn’t wake up one day and decide, “Hey, I want to start working from home! With my children, and maybe my spouse there as well!”

We were asked, during a crisis, to go home for safety reasons and we are trying to get our jobs done well.

In many ways, the accounting profession is fortunate to have the option of working from home with the use of technology. But technology is only so helpful when you don’t have childcare. The kids don’t care about your client portal or your exemplary Zoom meeting skills. They are stressed, too, and they need attention. They also like to be fed during the day. And did I mention that for several months they also needed to be educated and you had to become their Zoom call mentor and tutor? It’s been rough.

And now I’m hearing more and more about organizations telling their staff that as of x date, in the not-too-distant future, they will be required to have childcare if they’re working from home. During a global pandemic? That’s not as easy as it sounds. What if you don’t have family nearby who can help? What if you can’t find or afford a nanny? Or you just don’t feel safe having another person around your child? Did I mention that even as of July 10, many states still do not have clear guidance on back to school plans for kids in K-12? Even if they open, will they stay open?

And among this uncertainty, I’ve also heard expectations are creeping up — as in, employers are looking for pre-COVID productivity when nothing has significantly changed in many parts of the country. Hours haven’t been added to the day, and the work-life balance is still stressful for many families. I know people working in the middle of the night because it’s the only time they can concentrate, get everything done that needs to be done and manage what’s happening at home.

There are pros to the current situation (spending more time together, less commuting, less travel, etc.), and by all accounts, people are doing far better than their employers anticipated at working from home. Some staff even want to remain working at home after this crisis. That’s great — be proud of all that’s been learned and accomplished!

But, employers, please keep in mind that things are not back to normal. If you aren’t personally bearing the brunt of the childcare responsibilities right now, know that others are. Childcare has never been secure or easy in this country, and when systems get stressed, you see the flaws even more clearly.

Don’t make WFH sound like a perk; not yet. We’re still finding our way — it’s still difficult for a lot of families, it’s difficult for people without families, and there’s still so much we don’t know about the coming months.

I’ve been incredibly proud of the profession during this time. Not only for the work done on behalf of clients and companies, but in recognizing the mental health and personal difficulties many are experiencing. All I ask is that we remain aware of these challenges and don’t assume we are in a “new normal” that is working for everyone.

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