The Invisible Burden of Unpaid Labor on Remote Workers

The Invisible Burden of Unpaid Labor on Remote Workers

For our ongoing series in gender equity, we wanted to discuss some issues facing your remote workers. As many people are learning how to work from home during this COVID-19 crisis, there are important gender equity considerations you need to make for your employees.

What I’d like to talk about in this blog is the concept of unpaid labor. If you’re not familiar with unpaid labor – it basically means all the labor humans have to perform as a part of everyday life that they do not get paid for. These tasks include – cleaning, shopping, repairs, transportation, caring for children and the elderly. Though we might not always think of them as labor – they do require work. They require time, energy, planning, strategy, and often times actual physical labor.

You might be thinking what does this have to do with gender or remote working? First, we know that globally 75% of unpaid work is done by women – who spend “between three and six hours per day on it compared to men’s average of 30 minutes to two hours.” (Criado Perez, 70). For many working women, this unpaid labor is done on top of their full-time or part-time jobs. Imagine the difference between having 3 to 6 hours extra work per day and 30 mins to 2 hours.

Unpaid labor is a huge part of gender equity. When women work more than men, they have less time for personal and professional development. Men, statistically, have more time for leisure pursuits, things that would help with their physical, mental, and emotional health. We know that US men manage to find an hour more spare time per day to rest than their female counterparts (Criado Perez, 71). While we are living through this pandemic, finding time to rest and recuperate is becoming more and more important.

As we see a huge increase in remote working with the COVID-19 crisis, it’s vital that leaders and managers take into consideration the burden of unpaid labor. For many families, kids are now being homeschooled, and require extra care and attention. Many people are also trying to care for their more vulnerable family and friends. The burden of unpaid labor is ever present for working women (and men) now at home.

We encourage you to be aware of the unpaid labor your employees now face. Communicate with them about flexible work hours, or time/task management strategies, and provide support while you can. This crisis is putting new challenges before us everyday, but the business of everyday life – laundry, cooking, cleaning (especially now) – also continues. Realize that the women you employ are probably bearing more of the burden of unpaid labor, even during these exceptional times. Do what you can to support them as we all navigate this new normal.

*Stats taken from Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez*

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