Of Caregivers & Workplace Evo(so)lutions

10 January 2024

Brahmi Chakravorty is a Senior Consultant at The Athena Advisors. Here she writes about the reality of remote working as a mother and why it’s a huge benefit to businesses to be flexible to retain talent.

This blog post must start with a confession and an acknowledgement. I have been attempting to write this piece for The Athena Advisors for a while now, but I simply let myself have writer’s block. In comes Lucy, Director of Client Services with her timely interventions, pushing me to strive for progress, not perfectionism. And lo and behold, I finally write. Thank you, Lucy! This one is for you.

Six years ago there was an unexpected distraction for Professor Robert Kelly when he was being interviewed live on BBC News. He was interrupted by his two lovely children. Hilarity ensued as their mother frantically dashed in to retrieve them. For a lot of us, this was by far the most hilarious pop-culture TV moment and the best interview ever (the video has over 58 million views on YouTube) and honestly, no one really cared about what was being said.

Cut to 2024, we are all BBC dads and mums now (a lot of us in crisp formal shirts and pyjamas), minus the amusement. The widespread acceptance of remote work is probably the only silver lining that came out of the pandemic, and it is here to stay. Thankfully, for those of us with kids or pets or both, we no longer need to provide our colleagues or clients with long-drawn apologetic explanations about our ward’s magical appearances on the screen or their self-willed departures. It’s all good, and rightfully so.

We have indeed come a long way. Work cultures are evolving and the prolonged COVID years have aided empathy towards parents and children and how the latter shows up in our professional lives. So now when our children or fur-babies decide to perch on us and stare at unknown animated faces on the laptop, we let them.

Research shows that women in particular are more likely to exit the workforce or reduce their hours when they have young children, often at the exact point when they would otherwise be thriving in their career or taking on increased responsibility. Very often this step back from the workplace occurs because employers offer caregivers no other option. Offering remote or hybrid work and flexible schedules can help with reducing this loss of talent.

The Athena Advisors walks the talk by focusing on goals and not processes and by providing associates the flexibility to schedule our work around our caregiving needs. I strongly believe that this stance

Research shows that women in particular are more likely to exit the workforce or reduce their hours when they have young children, often at the exact point when they would otherwise be thriving in their career or taking on increased responsibility. Very often this step back from the workplace occurs because employers offer caregivers no other option. Offering remote or hybrid work and flexible schedules can help with reducing this loss of talent.

A team meeting, with unexpected guests

has a trickle-down effect as we look out for each other in the process and also have great conversations about our individual experiences which more often than not, are similar (mind you, our associates are across 4 continents!).

The Athena Advisors walks the talk by focusing on goals and not processes and by providing associates the flexibility to schedule our work around our caregiving needs. I strongly believe that this stance has a trickle-down effect as we look out for each other in the process and also have great conversations about our individual experiences which more often than not, are similar (mind you, our associates are across 4 continents!).

A photo of me during a recent presentation at my other workplace. My child wanted to play near me as I spoke to the audience. It felt organic, with each of us in the room doing what we were supposed to do.

In the midst of working on a project and exchanging copious notes, I remember a conversation with a very dear colleague on another continent included a discussion about preparing traditional Indian concoctions and the baby sock hack to help pump more breastmilk! Yet another chat with a co-worker included the importance of journaling and documenting ones parenting journey. For a long time I didn’t feel confident to lead our monthly team meetings as I would constantly be on high alert as my child slept in the next room and I being the only adult around, had to be attentive. When my sailor spouse returned from work and took over caregiving responsibilities, I finally did muster the courage to lead a team meeting and my colleagues cheered me on. All in good time, surely.

I consider these conversations and experiences as micro-validations that feed into a larger organisational ecosystem where we realise that our challenges and successes are interdependent as a team/organisation. Unfortunately, for a lot of workers around the world, these experiences are still considered a privilege. As remote and hybrid work becomes progressively normalized post-pandemic, it is on businesses and policy makers to consider ways of improving access to work for disadvantaged groups which can offer significant social and economic benefits globally.