Flexible work policy helps working moms overcome pandemic struggles

Published March 21, 2021, 8:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Flexible work policy adopted by companies since last year has helped working mothers overcome the pandemic struggles.

In the case of Mondelez International, the parent company of the snacks maker in the Philippines, introduced its Flexible Working Policy that allows moms the flexibility to fulfill their work and home duties. Strengthened by its South East Asia business unit, this pledge encourages people to “plan meetings only between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm local time, not expect same-day responses on after 6:00 pm requests, and take time back after exceptional late-evening requests or meetings at the next possible opportunity.”

Jess Peñaflor and Marianne Ocfemia, women leaders from Mondelez Philippines, are among the many full-time working moms who were faced with the challenge of the elusive work-life balance, and were able to adjust and manage the demands of a double duty with the help of the company they work for.

Jess Peñaflor

 Penaflor, sales operations and communications head and a mom of a spirited toddler,  admitted that her boss seemed to have gotten used to hearing her daughter during their virtual meetings. “And I am fortunate that he doesn’t mind hearing her,” she said.

“We are touched that the flexible working pledge came from them, the company, the leadership. This goes to show that they are here to help us get by this new normal, and it means that they have this initiative to help the people,” Jess continued.

Life for women these days is a juggling act of sorts, especially for working mothers. Their daily lives are a combination of attending conference calls and attending to the needs of their kids, while at home, almost simultaneously. The usual outcome: Your boss hearing your children on the background. 

A year on lockdown, women are observed to be bearing the brunt of COVID-related stress with erratic working hours and the demands of childcare, thus affecting their mental health. While vaccines are slowly being rolled out in the country, the hope for a return to normalcy is still up in the air. 

In an article titled, “Being A Working Mom Is Hard. The Pandemic Made It Even Harder”, Jessica Calarco, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University in the U.S., observed that when the pandemic hit, it became clear that changes in balancing home and work life are taking a huge toll on moms and their families.

Marianne, Senior Manager for Accounting and External Reporting of the Asia Middle East and Africa region of the Company , shared, “During the first few weeks of lockdown, I wasn’t used to it and found it difficult to work-from-home (WFH) because even my son and my husband, they are all WFH. So unlike when you are in the office set-up, you just focus on work, while at home, your attention is divided.”

Marianne Ocfemia,

“But what really helped me,” she added, “is the flexible working policy of the company, because they trust their people to be able to work flexibly and productively.”

This prompted Marianne to reflect and realize that, in the future, working moms should consider employers that value one’s well-being. “When looking for an employer, flexibility in the workplace is important,” she said.

Of this, Jess responded, “Because of what this pandemic brought us in terms of anxiousness and fear, I think there’s that urgent need to genuinely care and be able to respond to the needs of the person not just as officemates but also as individuals.”

As women learn best from other women’s experiences, these working moms are already looking forward to participate in the company-initiated Women’s Mentoring Circle in South East Asia, which provides an avenue to reach out to the most senior women in the team to inspire, dialogue with, and motivate.

“It’s a small community of women talent. I believe this will help strengthen the power of women and can act as one, a small group to learn and be inspired about how others get to manage work and even the responsibility of being a mother,” said Jess.

Clearly, life goes on for these working moms, despite living a double life in this challenging WFH setup. With this, Jess and Marianne advise other working mothers to create time for self-care, or else one would most certainly drop the ball of life during this juggling act.

“As a working mom, you take care of others. You take of your husband, your family. You have your work-life commitments. But you should never forget to take care of yourself. The more you take care of yourself, the more energy you can also give to taking care of your family and work commitments. Work-life balance, it’s really up to you. You own your work-life balance,” advised Marianne.  

Every year, Mondelez Philippines celebrates International Women’s Day by highlighting the unique contributions women bring to the workplace and the challenges that they face. Currently, 59 percent of senior leaders in the organization locally are women, as the company aims to ensue women representation in senior leadership positions.