More Women Are Dialing into Virtual Work During the Pandemic

Woman working at a desk

According to a National Women’s Law Center analysis, 865,000 of the 1.1 million workers ages 20 and over who dropped out of the labor force between August and September of this year were women–a number four times higher than the 216,000 men who also left the workforce during that time. I was a bit shocked by those numbers and started to wonder what job/career options there are for women who feel they have no choice but to leave their jobs to handle e-learning and other coronavirus-related challenges.

“Between scheduled virtual classrooms, online assignments, emails from teachers day and night, and standardized testing, it can drive you mad. The idea of trying to do any work, let alone [work] that can flex with this new normal is daunting and overwhelming,” says Michelle Lopez, founding advisor at Breakaway Bookkeeping and Advising, who started the company a few months before the pandemic hit and has been juggling those challenges in the months since.

“Add in the inevitable worries about finances and your future, parents, particularly women, are taking on more stress than ever and it breaks my heart to hear so many stories of women stepping away from fulfilling and profitable careers because of the pandemic.”

But as Lopez stresses, all isn’t lost!

“Now is the time to think outside the box for your career. There are many firms out there embracing flexible work hours and leaving behind the traditional 9 to 5 forever,” says Lopez, whose company embraces asynchronous — or not “real time” — communication. “Finding an opportunity like this might seem like a quest to find a unicorn, but I promise they are out there.”

Tap your connections to start searching for that unicorn, Lopez suggests.

“Online and offline networking is important to finding, and discovering, new career paths. Check your dream companies’ feeds regularly and across platforms to see who’s hiring,” she says.” There’s nothing wrong with casting a wide net. Apply to any job that interests you and connect with the hiring managers to build those relationships. Don’t limit yourself based on geographical area, as remote work becomes a permanent fixture in the workplace.”

If you’re struggling with that work-life balance more than ever, J. Kelly Hoey, author of “Build Your Dream Network,” says you don’t necessarily have to resign right away. One option is to explore taking a leave of absence before you quit, which she says will let you catch your breath, focus on priorities and perhaps explore alternative roles with your current employer. “It is often easier to find a job when you have one, and a leave of absence could keep you tapped into the support at your current place of work,” Hoey says.

Another idea: Pitch a job-share or flex-work idea to your current employer, even if they don’t currently offer those alternatives. “Ground the proposal in how the work will actually get done and the impact of your proposal on co-workers,” she adds. “For most employers, that’s what they really care about.”

If those options fail, or simply won’t work for you, there are other avenues to explore.

Working as a virtual assistant is one of them.

“Virtual support work is an incredible option for women to pursue, whether it is as a part-time, side gig or new work-from-home job,” says Tasha Booth, a business coach, mentor to virtual support professionals and leader of a free Facebook group of more than 3,000 women who are working in the virtual support field or are considering pursuing it.

Virtual support positions can include roles in customer service, online community management (Facebook groups, for example), social media management and technical support, says Booth.

The Virtual Savvy is another business that helps people find work in that field. CEO and founder Abbey Ashley became a virtual assistant to better balance her home and work life before starting the company — and has seen it grow since the onset of the pandemic. “The Virtual Savvy has seen an uptick in the number of people, almost all women, signing up to learn how they can hone their skills and become a virtual assistant,” she says.

Whatever the route you take, it is important to find the tools that will support your new work/life balance and remote set-up, Lopez says.

She uses apps like Calendly to block out chunks of her day to focus on helping her kids with their schoolwork and to “honor time for my work and meetings.” She also says she has had to “lean into workflows and outsourcing” more than ever, and relies on tools like Asana to help.

“I took a dive into my workflow and figured out what I could hand off, so I can best utilize my remote partners. Finding a community has been key, and I feel lucky to have a team that’s made all the difference,” she says. “We can discuss efficiencies and life hacks to get us through our responsibilities and I never feel alone, even though my work is remote.”


(Article written by Kathleen Furore)