The moment Lila Bitengo’s employer informed her of the shift to working from home after Kenya confirmed its first positive COVID-19 case on March 13, she knew as a mother, her productivity hinged on apt time management.
Bitengo, an administrator at a Nairobi-based local non-governmental organization, had to reorganize her work schedule to accomplish two-thirds of her daily targets before 10 a.m.
She finishes the remaining one-third, in-between mid-morning and after lunch, as she takes some time off work to pay attention to her three children-two infants and a teenager.
“I am even surpassing my targets since I work most between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. under minimal interruption unlike in the office where you are distracted intermittently,” said Bitengo.
She has adopted a dual-working model of swapping between her laptop computer and smartphone, making it easier for her to remain productive while tending to her children.
In the morning hours, she completes tasks that demand her to use her laptop computer before switching to the smartphone in the later hours for off-computer work.
“I have to deliver. I have to meet my work obligations and it is my responsibility to design a schedule that works for me so I can maintain my productivity,” said Bitengo.
She is an example of the current status of many working mothers striving to remain productive amid unavoidable child nurturing responsibilities.
Perminus Wainana, the managing partner at Corporate Staffing Services, a human resource agency, said the pandemic has demystified biases that have for years been held against women of productive age.
He said women of childbearing age are less preferred by employers due to the assumption of low productivity linked to time-offs to tend to their children.
“Now there is tangible evidence that women with children can actually perform while working from home,” said Wainaina.
“Employers will no longer be rigid to discussions on working from home and this will greatly advantage working mothers,” he added.
Wainaina predicted a shift in retention and promotion of female employees as employers are likely to gauge women according to their performance rather than their gender.
Cleopatra Mugyenyi, director of the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), however, warned that many women rendered jobless during the pandemic would be unemployed for the unforeseen periods.
She said that women’s domestic roles make them less attractive to employers eager to restart their businesses.
“It is important that the rights of women to work post-COVID-19 are respected just like that of men,” said Wainaina.
Tom Nyamache, a professor of economics at Turkana University College, said women’s re-entry into the employment sector would be dependent on their skills and adherence to existing employment regulations.
“The period after COVID-19 will be tough for business and employers who will be interested in someone with experience to turn around their performance. In that case, gender will not matter. They will prefer a woman to a man if she is more qualified,” said Nyamache. Enditem