Women’s challenges working from home

For illustration only. Photo: Freepik

KUCHING: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many workers are working from home (WFH).

The Malaysian government recently decided 80 percent of government staff and 40 percent of private sector workers would work from home to flatten the Covid-19 infection curve.

Based on a research entitled ‘Working from Home (WFH): Is Malaysia Ready for Digital Society?’, although teleworking (or WFH) has been promoted in Malaysia since 1990, it still remains unpopular.

Yet WFH actually offers many advantages to companies and employees such as real-estate cost savings, productivity increase, less absenteeism, labour relations flexibility, better customer service, flexibility and savings in commuting cost.

Despite its name (work from home), some employees, especially women actually struggle with it due to a variety of factors.

Muhani Missnan

For example, Muhani Missnan, a secondary school teacher has found that it is not as easy as it sounds.

“I juggle online classes for my students, my own children’s home-based lessons and daily house chores,” she said.

“The struggle not only requires a lot of time and physical energy; it can affect us emotionally and mentally if we don’t handle them well.”

She pointed out that most of her students are in rural areas with limited Internet access. Some do not even have the proper devices for online learning. On the other hand, there are students who have everything but refuse to participate in online classes.

“I am also burdened by subjects that I am not really good at when I teach my children,” she said.

The upside, said the 35-year-old is that she has lots of opportunities to bond with her family from spending more time together.

“WFH also improves my relationships with my students, their parents and my children’s teachers as we communicate daily. The pandemic is indeed life-changing. We are the ones who decide whether we want to face it positively or vice versa,” she said.

Ellissa Corniellia Ahmad

A government officer, Ellissa Corniellia Ahmad, said working from home allows her to fix her own timetable for house chores, checking mails, setting time for online meetings, doing office work and so on.

“Since my working time is flexible, I have more time to read and think of ideas and hence, come up with quality papers and recommendations.

“I can also spend more quality time with my family, read my favourite stories and watch movies.

“However, I have to struggle with online meetings; my three-year-old son often cries and demands my full attention when I have to focus on the meetings. 

“Another disadvantage is I don’t have certain information my bosses need because the confidential documents are at the office,” she said.

Ailyn Nau Sidu

Another career woman, Ailyn Nau Sidu, said working from home was really challenging for her.

“I have to juggle between work, daily house chores and my one-year-old daughter. I have to keep my baby fully occupied and keep to her routine.

“I can focus on my work only when she is sleeping. Most of the time, I do my work late at night.

“For me, completing my work beyond working hours is fine but the sad part is when my daughter has to play by herself the whole day as I am busy with online meetings, workshops and webinars.

“Sometimes I find myself mentally and emotionally exhausted. Staying sane throughout the MCO is really challenging.

“Nevertheless, I thank God for giving me a chance to spend more quality time with my little one and being able to see her grow up every day is the most gratifying thing,” stressed Ailyn, who works as a conservationist with an international non-governmental organisation.

Dolly Jenil

Account executive, Dolly Jenil, said it is challenging to work from home because her family members don’t really understand that she’s actually working and not on leave.

She said she could barely concentrate on her work as she has to handle her son’s online lessons and doing house chores, especially cooking.

“The biggest challenges for me are the online meetings. Sometimes my family members knock on the door and ask for things. It is something that I can’t control.

“However, I am thankful that I can spend more time with my family as I rarely apply for leave. And I don’t have to face heavy traffic jams!” said the 39-year-old.

Disabela Tusin

Disabela Tusin, who works for a telecommunications company in Kuala Lumpur, is happy to work from home as she can stay longer at her village in Dalat, Mukah after almost a year of not being able to return home due to the movement control order.

The 34-year-old said WFH gave her the flexibility to split her time between work and family commitments.

“However, I miss the teamwork and motivation due to less interaction with my colleagues. Apart from that, distractions and interruptions at home make it difficult to concentrate on my office work,” she said.