When a mom professional employed by industrial software company Siemens requested reduced work hours to manage her kids’ online learning during these exceptional times of a global pandemic, her boss’s answer was simple: no.
But as it turned out, he had her best interests at heart.
Aaron Genest, an applications engineer at Siemens, posted a tweet that went viral when one of his employees approached him asking to reduce her schedule to part-time during COVID. He explained how he didn’t feel right about granting her request.
“An employee came to me last week and asked to move to 80% time,” he wrote on Jan. 11. “Her husband, she said, was taking on some extra responsibility and they were having trouble keeping the kids on track during remote learning.
“I said no.”
He shared that his answer was not for a lack of sympathy, but because her request was based on a logical fallacy.
“Women in the workplace have been disproportionately affected by COVID, erasing decades of gains,” he said. “And it’s easy to see why when women typically earn less (even for the same jobs) than their partners. Every reason my employee gave was valid and rational … but the base assumption was wrong.”
This assumption, he said, was the idea that companies “expect the same thing of our work lives now” as they did before the pandemic.
“We shouldn’t [expect that],” he said. “I have a high-performing team who outperformed themselves again this year, outperforming almost every other team in my company in fact and winning awards for it. They did it with kids at home, with COVID isolation, and with increased stress and loneliness.”
He added that his team’s success wasn’t due to unreasonable expectations in the face of lockdowns:
“They didn’t do it by working 9 to 5 or putting 40 hours of tracked time in during the week. They didn’t do it by shutting their door and not seeing their kids or by using every moment of Zoom calls for work. They did it by being a supportive group and working together.
“When someone has to leave to pick up their kids, someone else covers. When a 2-year-old bounces into a business call, they smile and everyone understands. When a day is less productive because they can’t stand staring at the walls anymore, they get out so the next one is better.”
So, he declined his employee’s request. He felt she shouldn’t sacrifice her career to tackle changes families are facing now, in the era of the pandemic:
“I said no. No, you can’t become one of the women earning less because of COVID. No, you can’t sacrifice your career advancement because of a perceived lack of productivity. No, you don’t need to feel guilty about taking the time to make sure your kids are learning.”
Genest proposed a different course of action instead:
“We’re working together to make sure that she’s still productive and happy, that she feels comfortable blocking off whatever time she needs in her calendar to support her family, and that she and her family will be healthy and ready for when we come out the other side.”
Siemens told The Epoch Times that Genest was able to do this because they allow managers tools like flexible schedules and reduced working hours. The company cited Aaron’s calling attention to concerns of parent professionals as an example for other Siemens leaders.
“It’s a small thing,” Genest ended in his Twitter thread. “I’m a single boss in a large company among many employers. But let me encourage anyone with the power to do so to deny this change. Work with your team from within, above, or below to support the people struggling through this.