Online communities acting as informal support groups are rising in popularity among young people. Like it or not, the remote workplace born out of the impact of a pandemic has created habits that we’re not going to be able to simply walk away from. This labor day take a look at the work mothers and other caregivers have taken on in the household during the pandemic.
Stitching Together: Five Ways Online Sewing Communities are Reducing Work Stress
By: Victoria Kennedy
The Millennial generation is known as the “therapy generation” in mental health circles. More than any generation before them, they have embraced therapy and are leading the charge to destigmatize conversations around mental health in the workplace. I think we can agree this is a welcome shift.
But their interest in therapy and openness to discussing their feelings also reveals a deep sense of vulnerability. Depression is on the rise among Millennials, who have seen a 47% increase in depression diagnoses since 2013. And as much as experts tout the mental health benefits of remote work, working from home comes with its own set of psychological challenges.
The good news is online communities acting as informal support groups are rising in popularity among young people, too. One such community, the Sew-It-Online community, is proving to be an inspiring and positive force among people of all ages.
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When Jan Brostek opened her brick and mortar shop, Pins and Needles, over 30 years ago in Cleveland, OH, she couldn’t have imagined the role sewers would be playing during the current pandemic. What started as a sew-a-thon among Jan’s community to support healthcare workers at one hospital soon grew into a global Million Mask Challenge.
To date, our community has sewed and donated over two million masks to hospitals, medical clinics, and nursing homes around the country. But beyond this incredible display of generosity, what is so fascinating is how those who have participated in the challenge report how much sewing has helped them with their personal mental health during the crisis.
And it’s no accident that Millennials are a huge driving force behind the resurgence of interest we’ve seen in the first half of 2020. Besides the anxiety that comes with living through a pandemic, remote workers can find themselves forgetting to switch off at the end of the day. This is where sewing comes in.
There is something so uplifting about using your own hands to make something that you know will contribute to ending this pandemic. The online sewing community gives new meaning to the #inittogether campaign. Plus, it gives remote workers something to look forward to at the end of a long workday.
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If you’ve never considered sewing as a mental health booster, it’s time to experience what generations before us already knew. Sewing has some real therapeutic benefits.
Not that you ever need an excuse to give yourself a breather from the demands of remote working, but sewing is a really constructive way to spend your “me time.” Plus, when your hands are busy sewing, it just might keep the other humans with whom you are quarantined from asking you to do things for them.
As if we weren’t experiencing sensory overload because of our devices before the pandemic hit, now with basically every business or social interaction happening online, we’re all taken to the brink of overwhelm every day. Any reason to step away from social media and the 24/7 news cycle is a good reason. So, put down your devices and pick up your needle and thread.
The repetitive nature of stitching along the same pattern (e.g., face masks), either using a machine or by hand, may be just what your brain needs to relax and unwind. A mindful activity like sewing is the perfect remedy for the stress our brains experience from a full day of remote work and multitasking. Never underestimate how good it is for your mental health to stop and focus on one thing.
Completing a creative project is incredibly satisfying. When we set out to create something and accomplish that goal after working steadily for a period of time, we’re proud of what we did. Finishing such projects is invaluable for raising self-esteem.
By taking up sewing and deciding to start making clothing for yourself, you may notice an improved sense of confidence. How? Sewing helps you to develop your sense of style. Imagine designing and sewing a unique top to wear to your next Zoom meeting. It’s a great way to show yourself some love.
When you suffer from a dip in your mental health, socializing is an important way to get back to balance. Finding a community online can offer purpose and direction. Whatever your passion, find a way to share it with others.
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Victoria Kennedy is the CEO of Atman Real Estate and is currently working on building her PR firm, Victorious PR.
Zoom, the office and the future: What will work look like after coronavirus?
As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, there have been many questions about what (or even where) the workplace will be in the future, particularly for people who work at companies based in traditional offices.
Of course, some of it is obvious. Just look around.
Video-based conference calls on platforms like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Cisco Webex, etc. are – like it or not – with us to stay. It’s an approach that literally overnight went from something unusual to completely mainstream, and the remote workplace has created habits that we’re not going to be able to simply walk away from.
Yes, there’s a growing awareness that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing – well, at least, too many video calls. As a result, the number and length of video-based meetings will likely decline somewhat over time, but they aren’t going to disappear. They are starting to evolve, however, thanks to the immense competition among the different platforms and the critical factor that programmers who are creating these tools have to use them extensively as well. (That isn’t always the case with other applications.)
In addition to lots of new views of participants and content, we’ve begun to see immensely practical benefits like real-time audio transcription of the meeting – making it significantly easier and faster to confirm your notes, double check what was said, or catch up on a meeting you may have missed.
Beyond video calls, however, other changes are clearly afoot.
Most importantly, the density of work environments is almost certainly going to decrease, and the implications from that move are many. When employees do start to return to the office – and those dates keep getting pushed further and further back for many organizations – some companies plan to implement rotating schedules to reduce the number of people in a given space.
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Others plan to increase the amount of space they have in order to spread people out, while still others have adjusted to larger numbers of work-from-home employees and, therefore, expect to reduce the office space they have.
In most cases, the work environments people return to will include physical changes to facilitate social distancing practices through the introduction of things like plastic barriers, higher cube walls, rearranged environments and more. In short, it’s not likely to be what you remembered (or what you may be hoping for).
Faced with that disappointing reality, even more people may start to consider longer-term workplace alternatives – either more permanent work-from-home arrangements (potentially even in other cities – as some have started to do) or a more nomadic type of work lifestyle, where people start working from a range of different locations including their homes, offices, coffee shops, and other places, just to bring a bit of variety to their everyday experience.
Connectivity technologies like 5G and enhanced versions of Wi-Fi (specifically Wi-Fi 6E) will be critical in all these situations because of the absolutely essential need for high-speed connections (and ideally a backup connectivity solution in case one of them isn’t working well). Thankfully, we’re starting to see many more mobile PCs that integrate these technologies come to market from major vendors like Lenovo, Dell, and HP, with more on the way.
In addition to enhanced hardware, we’re starting to see companies look at new software solutions to both ease the back-to-office process, as well as improve the overall employee experience. In the case of the former, companies like Cisco are leveraging their position as providers of in-office wired and wireless networking equipment to create solutions like their DNA Spaces indoor location service.
Among other things, DNA Spaces can track how many people are in a given section of an office or are scheduled to use a given conference room and use intelligent analytics to notify employees of potential people jams.
Companies like Citrix and VMware have been seeing strong interest in some of the virtual desktop solutions that they have for enabling easy remote access to all the applications an employee may need. Citrix is taking the concept even further by building a series of micro-apps within its Citrix Desktop that can be used to check on the physical and even mental health of employees via simple surveys and check-in procedures.
It’s all part of a bigger effort we will likely see grow and evolve as companies try to figure out how to best leverage technology to maintain closer, more personal connections with employees, a need essentially created by this pandemic.
Further down the road, we may well fall back into more of our old work habits and environments, though even those won’t be exactly the way they were. For the next year or so, however, and especially as we enter into a more uncertain cold weather, indoor-focused fall and winter season, it seems likely that the near-term future of work is going to be pretty similar to what we’ve been experiencing.
It’s still a work-at-home world.
USA TODAY columnist Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. His clients are major technology firms including Microsoft, HP, Dell, Samsung and Intel. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.
Labor Day: Caregivers in the home are taking on more work, new obligations due to the pandemic
SUAMICO – Amanda Lawniczak knows firsthand how responsibilities and work have mounted for mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The mother of two runs Green Bay Area Mom – a blog and Facebook group – from her home in Suamico. The sites include compilations of local resources, guests posts authored by local mothers and an online community space for mothers in the Green Bay and Appleton area.
“Mothering is like a never-ending job,” Lawniczak said. “I would say the pandemic has made it even harder for moms because finding child care is a lot more challenging.”
The pandemic has shifted the work of taking care of individuals such as children or the elderly to family members, as outside resources are less available. Due to long-standing social roles and expectations, it has compounded an already existing trend: women disproportionately are caregiving and managing the household.
Stephanie Rytilahti, who directs the University of Wisconsin’s Women and Gender Studies Consortium, says the shift in caregiving work is fundamentally a gender equity issue.
Rytilahti said this shift in “invisible labor” is creating a crisis in which caregivers, who are chiefly women, are taking care of household members sometimes with little to no support through the pandemic.
There’s data behind the plethora of jobs that mothers are performing – generally without any compensation – during the pandemic.
A May 2020 analysis by the Bureau of Labor Services using May 2019 wage data demonstrates the value of the host of jobs moms do, including administrative services, teaching, cooking, dishwashing, painting, carpentry and more.
If you were to look at the annual mean wages for these job types, it ranges from $23,530 to $106,550. Mothers are rendering this work for free. They are often juggling a combination of some or even most of these jobs in one day.
Jennifer Schuttlefield Christus, director of the UW System’s Women and Science program, said this shift in duties, particularly in caregiving, is a result of how the pandemic changed or took away social networks that mothers traditionally rely on.
“In those situations, where you have traditional social networks like elementary school, or daycares, or grandparents, or neighbors or anybody who comes into the home – in this situation with the pandemic, some of those social networks have gone away,” Schuttlefield Christus said.
Due to business closures, social distancing and shifted social networks, it’s also challenging to catch a break.
“Not having those outlets of ‘Oh, I can go out with my friends tonight’ or ‘I can go to the store by myself and just enjoy it.’ – a lot of those outlets are gone as well,” Lawniczak said.
It’s hard no matter what, regardless if you a working mom or a stay-at-home, Lawniczak said.
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For working women, caregiving may have a ripple effect on their jobs. For example in higher education, research indicates women are publishing less and have less time for research, Rytilahti said.
Being regarded as care givers can also affect someone in subtle ways, too. Rytilahti said she’s found students might feel more comfortable approaching a woman faculty or staff member for help or advice during this difficult time. While that person, of course, wants to help students, it also creates an additional work or service asked of her.
Rytilahti and Schuttlefield Christus are on a caregiving task force that suggests guidelines and practices for the UW System to support student, faculty, and staff caregiving during the pandemic. The task force has recommended different forms of job flexibility and adjusting the importance of annual performance evaluations as some possible solutions.
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There’s still a lot to do in society and in the workplace to better support caregivers as they balance obligations, Rytilahti said.
“It just feels like a conversation that has happened over and over again in the past decades,” Rytilahti said.
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Contact Nusaiba Mizan at (920)-431-8310 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @nusaiblah.