Juggling parenthood with remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Today marks the fourth day in Porterhouse’s countdown to the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February 2021.

In this article, we will be discussing how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the working parents in our industry and what we can do to lessen the struggles they may be experiencing during these unprecedented times.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our working lives
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered the ways in which we live, socialise and work, and the long-term impacts of the pandemic are still yet to be fully realised. Over a year into the pandemic, the way we work is one of the areas most drastically affected, with many of us being forced to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of working remotely [1].

Unusually for a STEM-related field, the healthcare communications industry comprises a workforce that is roughly 75% female [2]. As such, our industry contains a significant number of working mothers who have had to juggle their new remote-working scenario with parenting responsibilities during the pandemic. One of the most significant changes in the lives of parents during the pandemic is having to home-school children because of nationwide school closures [3].

School closures and work commitments
Over the past year, schools across the UK have been closed intermittently for six months, with the latest closure expected to last until March 8 at the earliest [3]. As such, parents across the UK have been juggling home-schooling their children along with their work [3–6].

Many working parents are struggling during the pandemic
It is clear that many working parents are struggling to adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic, with increasing numbers of parents working from home and juggling their time with childcare and home-schooling [6].
Research from the University of Oxford has suggested that the pressures of lockdowns have increased levels of stress, depression and anxiety among parents and carers [7]. Surveyed parents and carers were shown to experience issues including difficulty relaxing, feeling fearful and worried, being easily upset or agitated and feeling hopeless [7].

Mental health advice for working parents during the pandemic
Below, we have included some useful tips and tricks for anyone struggling with their mental health, during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly working parents: [8]
1) Keep active – Exercise is beneficial to your mental and physical health, so try to keep active both in and out of your home (while adhering to the lockdown guidelines).
2) Stay connected – Although we cannot visit as many friends or family members as before the pandemic, staying in touch virtually is the next best thing.
3) Utilise mental health support – Many employers provide mental health support to their staff (such as Porterhouse’s Mental Health First Aiders); make the most of these resources and reach out to colleagues to help prevent feelings of isolation.
4) Try to make time for the things you enjoy – During these unprecedented times, it is normal to feel stressed or anxious. Dedicating some time to remind yourself of the things that bring you joy in life can have drastic effects on your emotional wellbeing.
5) Cut yourself some slack – Juggling work, childcare, home-schooling and day-to-day chores can bring a lot of pressure. Try to remember that you are only human and these times will pass.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, the following resources are available: [9]

• CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat: Phone 0800 585858 (daily, 5pm–midnight) or visit thecalmzone.net
• Samaritans is an organisation that offers confidential support for individuals experiencing feelings of distress or despair: Phone 116 123 (free, 24-hour helpline) or visit www.samaritans.org.uk
• Family Lives provides advice on all aspects of parenting: Phone 0808 800 2222 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm and weekends, 10am to 3pm) or visit www.familylives.org.uk

References
1. BBC Worklife. Coronavirus: How the world of work may change forever. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20201023-coronavirus-how-will-the-pandemic-change-the-way-we-work. Accessed February 2021.
2. Paramount Recruitment. Healthcare Communications Salary & Insight Survey: Summary Report 2020 – UK. Available at: https://pararecruit.com/storage/app/media/salary_surveys/Healthcare-Comms-Salary-and-Insight-Survey-Summary-Report-2020-UK-Paramount-Recruitment.pdf. Accessed February 2021.
3. The Telegraph. When schools could reopen for primary and secondary pupils – latest updates on coronavirus lockdown. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/01/29/schools-closed-new-lockdown-when-reopen-uk-areas-covid/. Accessed February 2021.
4. European Medical Writers Association. The Write Stuff: A feminine workforce. Available at: https://journal.emwa.org/documents/journal/TWS/TWS%202010%204%2019.pdf. Accessed February 2021.
5. Hospital Careers. Best jobs for working mothers in healthcare. Available at: https://www.hospitalcareers.com/blog/jobs-for-working-mothers-in-healthcare/. Accessed February 2021.
6. CNBC. Parents struggle with remote learning while working from home: ‘I’m constantly failing’. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/17/remote-learning-why-parents-feel-theyre-failing-with-back-to-school-from-home.html. Accessed February 2021.
7. BBC News. Parents’ stress and depression ‘rise during lockdowns’. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-55707322. Accessed February 2021.
8. Parent Club. Mental health advice for parents during coronavirus. Available at: https://www.parentclub.scot/articles/mental-health-advice-parents-during-coronavirus. Accessed February 2021.
9. National Health Service. Get support from a mental health charity. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/. Accessed February 2021.