When schools shut down their on-campus education and abruptly migrated to online learning without any transition plan, many parents (mostly mothers) had to rise up to the occasion. Working mothers  who had already been wearing several hats and striving to achieve work-life balance  during the normal days, were now faced with an even bigger challenge. Balancing all of those roles while being confined in the same physical space for an extended period of time is no walk in the park. And despite the fact that some working mothers, fathers, and guardians may have mastered the art of surviving the new challenges brought by the pandemic, they should not have to face these issues on their own. Support in the form of employer assistance, for example, is highly essential during times like these.

As many organizations had been allocating all their resources towards surviving during these times of uncertainty, they may have witnessed some people being immensely productive at home. But what many may not have paid attention to, is the enormous hidden cost of all this on the overall wellbeing of certain employees. If you are an organization that has overcome the hardships of 2020 pretty well, now is the time to ensure that your employees are not burning out. Taking the right steps to prevent burnout can diminish the risk of low employee performance, high absenteeism, and consequently losing your organization’s top talent.

In light of all this, we at ig have conducted an interview with Yasmina Audi, a proud mother of three and an entrepreneur. Yasmina is a Lebanon-based marketing and communications professional with over twenty years of experience in working with major brands in the market. She is the strategic director of IGNIUM Consultants, a marketing and branding agency focused on supporting startups build their brands. She has also founded Super Mama Arabia, a woman’s empowerment platform to support mothers throughout their motherhood journeys.

In this interview, Yasmina has helped us shed the light on some of the struggles that work-from-home mothers now face, and the kind of support they might be seeking:

ig: Can you describe your daily routine since the beginning of the pandemic until now?

Yasmina: The instability, anxiety and uncertainty that the pandemic has brought to our lives have been truly exhausting. The daily routine we used to have disappeared – my home is now a school, daycare, gym and restaurant. The kids lost the routine of going to school and coming home – with homeschooling the line of normality has greatly shifted.

ig: As an entrepreneur and a mother working from home, what would you say are the biggest challenges that you face on a daily basis?

Yasmina: The greatest challenge is to allocate time to be able to finish projects without interruptions, needs and requests. Zoom meetings and client on-boarding are continuously interrupted by my little toddler who has become famous to my clients. Preparing lunch and writing up proposals simultaneously was a skill I never knew I had!

ig: How do you cope with all these challenges? What are the techniques and tools you use to overcome?

Yasmina: Coping is still a struggle, because we are not just living in a pandemic in Lebanon, but an economic downfall, political unrest, and just the normal adventures of being Lebanese. But with time I found that just switching everything off and giving myself time to practice yoga, or even bake a cake have been the best therapy for me.

ig: Have you ever experienced work-from-home burnout? If yes, how did you manage it?

Yasmina: Unfortunately during this pandemic I had started a job but left after 4 months due to complete burn out from my end. Work-from-home burnout is probably the hardest type of burnout because you have no escape. Your home is limited to the number of rooms you can escape to, so getting in your car and just escaping is not an option. Additionally, working with a team, especially if they are not married with kids is hard because they lack the empathy to really understand what is happening.

ig: What are your thoughts on the wellbeing of employees, especially mothers, who work from home while taking care of their kids and handling chores?

Yasmina: Mothers are not getting the empathy and mental support that they need during this time. At first I thought I could be a full on super hero and handle everything on my own – until I realized I couldn’t without sacrificing my physical and mental wellbeing. Now the kids and my husband are helping with the chores – each one has a responsibility. It takes a village to raise a child – but with lockdown your “village” has to be made from more self-sufficient kids.

ig: Do you believe there should be tailored organizational well-being programs for mothers working remotely?

Yasmina: Definitely! And this shouldn’t stop even if we no longer to work remotely. Leaders of companies, groups and departments should take the initiative and live up to the leadership roles. These types of programs not only relieve some of the pressure off of a mother’s shoulders, but they also create a better sense of belonging to the organization and help prevent bigger future problems such as work-from-home burnout.

ig: If you were an employee, and could receive any sort of external support from your organization, what would you seek?

Yasmina: I believe that parents, not just mothers, need support – that could be a child friendly area when applicable, online activities to entertain kids as a replacement for daycare, wellbeing programs for parents, flexible work schedules, and simply being empathetic towards caregivers who have a lot on their plate.

ig: What is the message you would like to send to caregivers who are currently working from home? And how do you foresee the future of remote work?

Yasmina: No storms last forever, and we will come out of this more resilient and stronger. Keep going, don’t overwhelm yourself, and Forward Always! I believe that work from home will continue but with less intensity than it is now. But for more productivity, I do consider that a balance between remote and office work is better for the sake of teamwork and employee wellbeing.

Yasmina is a voice for the many mothers who are trying hard to cope with this new reality. Employers now have a choice to either continue with the same cycle and let caregivers manage everything on their own, or to provide the much-needed support for the sake of employee wellbeing, and in turn, future organizational performance.

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