Gaining Perspective: How Women are Balancing Work, Families and the Lasting Effects of the Pandemic

January 25, 2021

Just over a year ago, our Women@Deltek group sponsored a very successful customer event as part of Deltek Insight 2019. This panel featured several customers who shared their thoughts on topics including career development, harnessing the power of diverse teams and maintaining a positive work-life balance.

These days, with so much uncertainty happening in the world around us, we wanted to share how women are coping with the added stress of COVID-19. To gain this perspective, we spoke with two of our original Insight panelists on redefining their work-life balance, what they are doing to embrace a work from home culture and how they are transforming uncertainty into opportunity.

Feeling the Impacts

There’s no question that we’ve all been impacted by the pandemic; it abruptly halted life as we knew it ─ testing our patience, our understanding, and undeniably our internet connectivity. According to research by Deloitte Global, nearly 82% of the working women surveyed said the COVID-19 had negatively disrupted their lives, and nearly 70% of women who have experienced these disruptions are concerned about their ability to progress in their careers. The study found for many working women, the pandemic is upending their work-life balance and affecting their physical and mental health, leaving some women questioning their current and long-term career opportunities. 

The study also cited that more than a third (37%) of the women surveyed are now working from home full-time versus just 1% before the pandemic. This extra time at home is impacting women in several different ways. Some are finding themselves having more free time due to changes to commuting and travel routines, while others are experiencing more responsibilities and commitments added on to their already busy lives.

To better understand how these disruptions are directly impacting Deltek Project Nation, we sat down with Cara Arehart, Vice President of Information Technology at Valiant Integrated Services, and Laura Renauer a Senior Financial Analyst at Kleinfelder, for a virtual interview. We discussed how they are managing their new normal and how the different challenges associated with the pandemic are putting pressure on their personal and professional lives.

"We shouldn't make assumptions of how individuals are managing their workloads based on gender or role, but we should recognize that everyone has different situations and that is okay." 

– Cara Arehart, Valiant Integrated Services

Redefining Work-Life Balance

For many employees, working from home has resulted in fewer and fewer boundaries. Without the physical need to commute and limited external priorities, more often than not, employees are finding that their professional time is creeping into their personal time, resulting in no definitive separation between the two.

While convenient, this undefined state creates various challenges and can contribute to work burnout and mental fatigue. “My days were blending together and I saw the need to set a routine to avoid working all the time and not taking the necessary breaks. Having a schedule and then making the conscious effort to shut down, close the door and walk away has provided me the separation I need,” explained Laura Renauer when asked how she was managing her remote work schedule.

Of course, every situation is different. While many women may be working from home, their experiences can vary based on their living arrangements and their personal obligations outside of work. “With my husband and I both working from home and our children learning virtually, we are sharing the responsibilities ─ breaking up the day-to-day based on our schedules and determining who tackles what,” Cara Arehart explained. “I am fortunate that this is what works for us, and recognize in a lot of households this is not the norm.” However, to keep her work-life balance intact, she added, “I found that I had to be very clear with myself and when the workday is done ─ my job is then mom and wife.”

Embracing a Work from Home Culture

Prior to the pandemic, many workplaces focused on making company culture a priority creating collaborative environments where co-workers and teammates were used to seeing one another, having impromptu discussions and treating one another like extended family. Now, for some, the lack of face-to-face interaction has made many rethink their daily interactions and ability to navigate a remote work environment. “I’ve had to learn to be more intentional about connecting with my team and colleagues. By using different communication methods in different ways, I'm now more purposeful with my one-on-one engagements," said Arehart.

For others, being alone can be the hardest part. Renauer, who recently purchased a new home, admitted, “the biggest challenge with working from home so far has been the isolation ─ due to the lack of human interaction ─ living alone can be tough at times and can make the days really long. I’ve missed having the option to go into the office and see co-workers or get together with family and friends during the last year.”  

With remote work here to stay for the foreseeable future, she went on to say that “video calls do help and can make the difference, allowing us to collaborate and in some cases see each other more often than we would have pre-pandemic.” Adding, “Adopting a daily workout schedule has helped change my mindset and renewed my excitement to live a healthy lifestyle. And by joining a virtual workout group in the neighborhood has provided accountability and motivation to keep me going.”

Transforming Uncertainty into Opportunity

As we enter this year with the hope to put many months of the pandemic behind us, the reality remains that our current situation has put a spotlight on the need for more flexibility and understanding in the workplace, and has identified possibilities to shape how women are perceived. Although these are not issues that can be transformed overnight, by having difficult conversations, evaluating current workplace practices and using data to support change, employers have the opportunity to emerge stronger than they were before.

When asked if the pandemic would have a lasting effect on the career trajectories of women, Renauer noted, “The positive impact of the pandemic for the long-term will hopefully force employers to permanently adopt flexible work schedules and normalize working from home, in addition to expanding benefits to help with child care and homeschooling.”  

In response to the same question, Arehart remained optimistic, sharing that “The pandemic has really given everyone a seat at the table. Showing that people can work effectively from home ─ proving they can do the balancing act while supporting their family. Hopefully, this trend has a positive effect, and as a result, more women can and will remain in the workforce.”

Supporting Deltek Project Nation

We hope conversations like these help navigate your daily challenges while providing ideas and inspiration to keep you motivated and engaged, no matter where you’re working.

Learn more about Deltek’s winning workplace culture and how we are creating a balanced, values-driven workplace powered by collaboration, innovation and authenticity. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to get the latest on #DeltekProjectNation.