Employee Workload and Retention in an Environment of Unpaid Labor: Acknowledging and Supporting “Women’s Work”


The COVID-19 pandemic produced a number of shifts in the workforce and in the economy. One of these shifts was increased unpaid labor that many people, particularly women, were required to take on both inside and outside of work. Unpaid labor refers to obtaining food and essential supplies, cooking, caring for family and community members, general household management, and tending to the social-emotional needs of others. Additionally, unpaid labor can encompass physical or social-emotional tasks within the workplace such as team-building activities, tending to inter-office relationships, and managing expectation during times of crisis or major changes. Another shift in the workforce and in the economy produced by the pandemic was significant job loss that disproportionately affected women. This case study uses a fictional workplace scenario to explore the effects of unpaid labor on workload and employee retention, and to highlight the disproportionate ways in which economic crises and unpaid labor impact women. Students will be asked to consider the impact of unpaid labor on the retention of female employees and to consider the ways in which individuals, companies, and society can better prepare for future times of crisis and support workers during such times.

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