In Focus Society

Work from Home and the Pain of Women

Haya Arwa

The impact of the coronavirus in Sri Lanka, including the frequent imposition of travel bans and lockdowns by the government has caused various changes and impacts on the lives of citizens. Both public and private sector employees and school children have been pushed into new life experiences and vulnerabilities. With the “Work from home” experience for public and private sector employees and “Zoom” learning for students, it has caused various arguments as to whether “is it a boon or bane”?

I am posting here on behalf of the affected women on the challenges, issues, and problems faced by many women in relation to “Work from home”. 

While millions around the world are losing their livelihoods, the only way out of this is for public and private companies to take the necessary steps. When our Office Personnel Managers gave us permission to work from home, we were overjoyed. We were satisfied that we got what we wanted. It was a pleasure to have occupational safety and life safety together. Many of us thought it was better to work from home rather than doing nothing. 

There is no need to get up early in the morning, especially when women leave for office after finishing housework and the travel crisis is many times greater than that of men, so they do not have to travel in such a condition. They are also saving travel costs. And the practice of “work from home” was very good when it came to thinking only of the benefits of not having to face crises directly from superiors. But as the days passed by, the negative effects of this new “work from home” policy are now slowly becoming apparent.

It has been one and a half years since Corona started and the same time since we started “working from home”. This practice has become a burden for women and caused stress and mental health problems for many. Many feel that there have been changes in their mind and body weight. Many people report that there is more fatigue and tiredness in doing office work from home than working in the office. On the face of it, many people think of home office workers as “fortunate”. Many people are unaware of the intense workload and psychological stress of working online from home. 

Women will be the only employees in the office, but at home, they carry a great many other responsibilities as wife, mother, sister, daughter, etc. The husband may understand the office work of a female employee, the siblings or parents and others at home do not understand much. This is what makes office work at home a burden for women. If the “online classes” for children, “work from home” for husband and wife, son and daughter at home, consider the status of the family and the status of the woman who heads the family. 

The fact is that the travel time that used to be spent going to and from the office is now being spent working at home. Travel time is a time when “work from home” robs you of opportunities to look around, meet others on the train, on the bus, or in the office. Such a journey makes such an important contribution to an individual and their social relations. Leaving all that behind and spending many hours at home just looking at the computer screen the whole day is horrible as far as women are concerned. This new “work from home” practice has exacerbated the stigma attached to the community, which has already confined women in the home. 

If a woman goes to work, she gets relief from the family burden for those eight hours. But now women who have to do office work at home are joined by household chores. The woman is burdened with having to carry both jobs together. Thereby increasing stress. It affects office work and homework. In addition, anger and frustration caused by stress can cause family problems to escalate and such frustrations reflect on family members. This has led to an increase in domestic violence. 

While some companies have provided computer and internet facilities for those doing office work from home, some companies do not provide these facilities and only expect the work. If you ask for these facilities then you are told not to do it and the work is passed on to others who have these facilities. Thus, many carry out office work at their own expense for fear of losing their jobs. As a result, there are additional costs such as telephone charges, internet charges, and electricity charges. 

There may be just one computer or laptop at home. With online classes and office work happening simultaneously, it has become extremely difficult to share it with children. Having a computer, laptop, or smartphone and using it interchangeably can be very challenging. This creates an environment where even children have to contend. 

Usually, the office provides the work environment for us to work. Such an opportunity does not exist in homes, although it is associated with the aspect of obtaining a greater amount of human labor. Most employees do not have the environment to work at home. The setup of urban houses is very small. So separate space cannot be allocated for an office. Doing the same amount of work from home without a chair or desk to sit and work at, many hours of work can cause physical difficulties. However, the same amount of work needs to be done and completed.

When working from home, we isolate ourselves from our family members and are forced to work in a separate room. Our fellow office friends and staff will not be near us. So, we tend to have more and more negative feelings like depression, anxiety, and sadness. When we work alone for a long time, we feel lonely.

More than that, working hours and workload are the main reasons why office work from home becomes a burden for women. Having to work overtime for online work rather than office hours. Also, having to work seven days a week without holidays. If you work in the office in this way, you will get extra overtime pay. But there are no allowances for working overtime from home. With the layoffs in the offices, more and more outputs are being sought from women working from home. “Working from home means working longer hours,” says one study. The report was released by the National Office for Statistics (ONS), a UK-based research firm. The study is based on a decade-long census of the country and compares the working conditions of more than a million people.

If working from home is a burden on employees, it is a boon for companies. Every company operates on a profit basis, so it is in the best interest of the company to have a large reduction in cost at the same time. Office rent, electricity bill, water bill, internet facility, maintenance cost, tea for staff, transportation costs, including overtime payments, can be huge. These costs are completely saved for companies by the “work from home” approach. Avoiding these costs is likely to greatly reduce the burden on companies at this time of reduced business. Therefore, companies will tend to continue this practice in the future.

”வீட்டிலிருந்து வேலை”யும் பெண்களின் வேதனையும்

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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