The Big Impact of the 'Second Shift'


With Mother's Day coming up, I wanted to call your attention to some research about the challenges that women and families as a whole face.  

I was struck by an article that my sister shared with me recently: "Study reveals that women are literally working themselves to death." The article discusses research showing that long work hours increase the risk of heart disease, cancers other than skin cancer, arthritis and diabetes. But here's the really shocking thing: "For women ... the side effects of working long hours were much more dire. For example, working 60 or more hours per week tripled the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart trouble and arthritis in women."

Researchers theorize that this is because women work a longer "second shift" tending to home and family responsibilities than men do.

Consider these findings from Pew Research Center:

  • 56 percent of dads say chores are split evenly between parents, but half of moms say they do more around the house.

  • Moms spend twice as much time on childcare as dads do.

  • Mothers are more likely to interrupt their careers to attend to family needs than fathers are. Thirty-nine percent of mothers said they had taken significant time away from work to care for a family member.

  • Women are twice as likely as men to say that responsibility for caring for a seriously ill family member falls primarily on women.

  • 40 percent of working moms say they always feel rushed.

  • 56 percent of working mothers (and 50 percent of fathers) say it's hard to balance family and work responsibilities.

What Leaders Can Do

Let these statistics serve as a reminder to pay attention to what's going on with your team members, both women and men. Are any of them facing challenges in caring for children or other family members? Keep in mind your employees might not be revealing the full picture of what's happening with them. Some people might feel that they should just "soldier on" and not share their situation or ask for help.

But if you can offer help to employees overburdened by their second shift, you're both improving your team's effectiveness in the short term and helping your employees succeed in the long term. One possible starting point: looking for ways to offer more flexibility. According to Pew, a flexible schedule is the quality that working moms value most in a job.

This week, look at how the second shift impacts your staff. You can find more ideas on helping your staff members thrive in Building a Strong Team, part of the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.