The Double Double Workload is Pushing Colleagues to New Levels of Stress

By: WorkLife Team
Barbara Roberts, M.Sc.OT, Ph.D., Senior Advisor to the Provost, Executive Director of WorkLife Office
Jaimie Hutchison, MA, LPC, Deputy Director of WorkLife Office
Maranda Holtsclaw, MPH, Director, Michigan Higher Education Recruitment Consortium

The challenges and stresses facing parents and caregivers at this time are staggering. With COVID numbers on the rise, schools going online and talks of returns to campus, parents and caregivers are running out of options faster than they can create solutions. Prior to COVID parents were already facing a double shift mentalilty of a full day of work followed by parenting along with household responsibilities. In the current state all of this is now happening on top of each other creating the impact of a double double workload with parents juggling work expectations, childcare and schooling at the same time, while in the same household that needs more attention than ever, because it’s being used more than ever. This problem disproportionately impacts women, and over 50% of our employees are women (47% of faculty, 61% of staff). Many parents are feeling forced to consider abandoning their careers to reconcile the stresses. And the stress is having health impacts on our employees at every level. That means MSU stands to lose valued employees for lack of childcare resources. 

“I cannot keep up the level of productivity that I had prior to Covid. I have children at home and that adds additional responsibilities to my plate with school and daycares closed. I am having sleepless nights worrying about my evaluation during this time, since I will be compared with colleagues who do not have the same responsibilities as I do. I don’t know how to make the right decision both for my family and my job regarding my children returning to school and daycare. I have started seeing a counselor and that is a good outlet, but I need more direction and support from my leadership,” said one tenure-track faculty member. 

Many of the decisions of how to return children to school have created additional childcare responsibilities for working parents. The most significant challenge is trying to work full-time while monitoring and supporting your child’s online, remote, hybrid or in person learning. This has also led to supervisors and leaders scrambling on how to manage the work getting done with the needs of working parents.

According to an Urban Institute Policy paper published in July, 2020, the implications for failing to address these challenges will create negative outcomes for parents, children, after-school and childcare providers, employers and the larger economy. The costs are disproportionately likely to be borne by women and communities of color, both of which face systemic inequities and barriers.

The WorkLife Office has compiled both background information and recommendations for dealing with these challenges. 

In 2019, 76% of mothers and 92% of fathers with school-aged children were employed. School is normally about 30 hours per week, so most parents need childcare 13.5 hours per week per child (pre-COVID). For children doing distanced learning, parents now need 43.5 hours of care for their children (during COVID).  It is hard to estimate the costs of these additional hours, due to the uncertainty of what kinds of care will be available, how much providers will charge, what parents can afford and what parents will use. Below are just a couple of resources available to MSU faculty and staff.

  • is a service provided free of charge to all MSU faculty and staff (who login using their MSU NetID email) to help find quality childcare, tutor, learning pod instructor, eldercare, household help and services. provides extensive informational resources for managing relationships and responsibilities with service providers and employers. Learn more on the WorkLIfe Office website has also created this back-to-school resource guide where you can find information on how to navigate the these newly complicated care scenarios.
  • Safe at Home is a division of Kennedy Care, a leader in home health care based out of Ann Arbor, MI, serves MSU faculty and staff around the state of Michigan. Kennedy Care provides passionate caregivers assisting with important everyday tasks to keep clients safe in their homes. Learn more about Kennedy Care on the WorkLife Office website. 

    Kennedy Care is now offering Virtual Assistance Training for all child care providers on staff. This resource provides the tools and knowledge needed to best aid students while they navigate through online learning. The training includes information on three Learning Management Systems (LMS) in detail that include Google Classroom, Seesaw, and Schoology. If your family uses a different LMS platform Kennedy Care will offer additional support. Furthermore, the training will include strategies for communication between students and teachers, engaging educational teaching resources, and plans for accountability for grades K-12.

And for those who don’t share family-related concerns, please remember that we all have had parents or elders, and we all need children whether we have them ourselves or not. They are our future – the students, taxpayers, caregivers, inventors, healthcare providers; the poets, journalists and artists who help us understand ourselves. Now, and in future unprecedented times.
Together We Will: Take care of each other.