Scientifically, the jury is still out on whether women are better multitaskers than men. A 2013 study suggested that women do, in fact, outperform men, while a 2019 German study found no demonstrable differences between the sexes. In my entirely unscientific opinion, I think the stereotype is real.

Women are engaged in all kinds of things at the same time. At any given moment, I’m engrossed in my work while also contemplating the contents of my freezer, making a mental note to order more diapers, and simultaneously clipping my daughter’s toenails. A New York Times piece on why women do the household worrying described a woman’s mental load as a “combination of anxiety and planning that is part of parenting.” This, unlike most of the Times’s coverage, encapsulates the phe- nomenon well and fairly.

Working remotely has been a gamechanger for many in the workforce, and especially for working mothers like me. It’s much easier to take your kid to the doctor, pop in to say hello before naptime, or spend an hour together during the day if you know you’re going to have a late night and miss bedtime. In these ways and others, working remotely has delivered innumerable benefits, and I’m lucky to be an entirely nonessential worker who can take advantage of them.

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There’s another piece to this puzzle. The division between work hours and regular life hours has never been completely impermeable, but the membrane has softened with every technological leap. Before the invention of the telephone, that membrane was mostly impermeable. You weren’t sending a letter unless there was real urgency. The telephone changed all that. And then the fax machine, and the cell phone and then email. And then suddenly everyone had a smart phone, and now suddenly everything is done on Zoom. Even before Covid boosted remote work, that semipermeable membrane had almost gone.

The commute — whether a five-minute walk or a fifty-minute train ride —used to mark the boundary between professional hours and personal ones. The boundary has evaporated. It used to be that employers worried that their underlings would goof off at home without the watchful and competitive eye of their colleagues. After the great Covid work-from-home experiment, employees actually reported burnout, working more hours than ever, and putting on weight around the middle.

There were supposed to be all these other upsides. If we were working from home, we were supposed to be able to do it in pajamas, even in bed, if we wanted. We were supposed to be able to iron our hair and paint our nails as we read our endless emails and caught up on apparently vital meetings. But then came Zoom. Suddenly, despite FaceTime being around for years and being entirely unused in most professional settings, it is now standard practice to just pop into your colleagues’ homes, uninvited, unannounced and unashamed — and regardless of whether they’re ready, willing or dressed from the waist up.

For young professionals, this was an awkward circle to square. Most were working from shoddy one-bedrooms or studios in the city and felt deeply uncomfortable inviting all their colleagues into every square inch of their homes. But there was no option to politely opt out. At the beginning of the pandemic, when I was nine months pregnant and in no mood to put on professional attire if I didn’t absolutely have to, I was told many times that my choice to join Zoom calls on audio only made me appear “unengaged.”

Now, many Americans have returned to their places of work and are physically interacting with colleagues again. And yet, how many times have you received an email in the last month or so setting up a regular, old-fashioned, audio-only call? It seems like every single time I get invited to a meeting, even one that would have always been on a phone call even in pre-pandemic days, it has been transformed into a Zoom invitation.


What we’re witnessing is the death of the phone call. Luddites like myself call it decline and note that the corrosion of privacy and choice is nothing new, though some of the more tech savvy among us might call it “progress.” The voicemail was the first to go: people under thirty-five say they barely use it. Companies like JPMorgan Chase and Coca Cola have already saved millions by efficiently eliminating their voicemail services.