Work-at-home challenges for women

Looking after the family and working from home can be physically and mentally taxing


MOTHER of two, Nurul Iman Zarif, is at her wits’ end trying to cope with the demands of working from home and taking care of her family.

The moment this 37-year-old civil servant switches on her laptop in the morning to get some work done, her children, aged eight and three, would scramble to press the keyboard buttons.

“They love my laptop…and I would be shouting at them all day. They would go play with their father when I tell them to do so, but it would only be for a short while.

“I try to be patient with them because I know they want my attention. But these days, I tend to get angry because I have so many proposals to complete by early this year,” she told Bernama in a telephone interview.

Nurul Iman is among the hundreds of mothers who have been working from home since the government enforced the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18 to curb the spread of Covid-19. The initial two-week MCO was later extended by another fortnight to April 14.

Besides attending to her children’s needs, Nurul Iman also has to cook and clean daily. “On the whole, I find working from home more tiring,” she declared, admitting that she can only concentrate on her office work for one or two hours a day.

“It’s okay for those working mothers who have domestic helpers, but I guess I’ve to learn to adapt to working from home in view of the danger posed by Covid-19.”


Many work-at-home mothers have also poured out their “grievances” on social media. After the MCO was extended by two weeks, one woman who has a young child wrote: “…now I’ve become like a zombie, in another two weeks, I think I will turn into a pontianak (vampire).”

Staying home all day with the children and having to meet work deadlines at the same time is no mean feat for a woman. Failure to cope with her responsibilities will cause stress to build up which, of course, is unhealthy and harmful.

Failure to cope with responsibilities will cause stress to build up which, of course, is unhealthy and harmful (Source:

Social/positive psychology expert Prof Dr Intan Hashimah Mohd Hashim said women in general face more challenges as they have to meet the demands of their employer, children and husband.

“Due to the current situation our nation is in, working mothers are burdened with the responsibility of doing their office work and taking care of their family simultaneously. This requires a lot more energy and focus.

“It’s worse for women whose husbands don’t help (with household chores). Being in a situation like this can certainly lead to physical, mental and emotional fatigue,” said Intan Hashimah, who is attached to the Centre for Social Science Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Furthermore, she added, challenges are bound to arise as the MCO is unprecedented in this country and many Malaysians are unfamiliar with the work-at-home concept.

Be More Understanding

International Islamic University Malaysia Department of Psychology senior lecturer Dr Nazariah Shar’ie Janon urged employers and bosses to be more considerate towards employees who have families, pointing out that they (bosses) should focus on the work done by the staff instead of monitoring them during working hours.

She said in the absence of a supportive husband and employer, working at home would be most challenging for women who have children aged below five.

Besides attending to the children’s needs, a mother also has to cook and clean daily (Pic: AFP)

“These children are always active and want to try out new things. The younger children will not understand why their mother has to work at home and will seek her attention all the time.

“The best time for the mother to catch up with her work is when her children are asleep or taking a nap,” she added.

Senior lecturer in Guidance and Counselling/Psychology at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Dr Abu Yazid Abu Bakar, who is a retired Royal Malaysian Navy lieutenant commander, opined that the husband has an important role to play to ensure the success of the work-at-home concept.

He said the perception that women must take care of all the household chores is no longer acceptable as many of them earn an income too.

Looking after the family and working from home can be physically and mentally taxing, and if the woman cannot manage her stress well, she will end up quarrelling with her husband more often, he said.

“The household is a family institution that demands understanding, sharing and tolerance from all the members. In difficult times like the MCO, all family members must cooperate and support each other to ensure harmony prevails in the household,” he added.

Work-at-home Tips

Dr Ku Suhaila Ku Johari, a senior lecturer at UKM’s Faculty of Education, said to ensure the success of the work-at-home routine, parents must prepare a timetable for their children to indicate their meal times and the time for them to play, take naps and watch television.

Parents must also make arrangements for a conducive workspace for themselves at home to do their office work.

“The mother must explain to her children why she has to do her office work at home. The children’s understanding of the Covid-19 situation can be improved by getting them to watch the news on television and also movies related to viral outbreaks,” she said. — Bernama