Coronavirus in the Workplace

Employers – Do Not Ask About Pandemic Passion Projects!

By Lindsey A. White - Shawe Rosenthal LLP

July 8, 2021

Last month, the Tweet below went viral:

“I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I’ve just been asked in a job interview if I used lockdown ‘to pursue any passion projects or personal development.’”


Please, employers, I beg of you— find a different trendy interview question.

While Pinterest and Instagram are full of people (I would speculate these folks do not have children at home and had white-collar jobs that lent themselves to remote work) chronicling their pandemic passions like learning a new language or taking up an interesting hobby, many struggled just to survive. Millions of employees lost their jobs overnight. Others, like myself, who structured their entire lives to be a working parent with robust childcare (Day care! After school sitters! Drivers! Grandma!), saw that safety net collapse overnight. Suddenly, everyone with school-age children was working 100% remotely WITH YOUR CHILDREN ALWAYS THERE while facilitating “virtual learning.” (As an aside, virtual learning for my youngest, a preschooler, consisted of a 15 minute Zoom session he refused to attend and lessons for us to guide him through; we largely opted out and I counted watching TV with his sisters as an appropriate substitute).

It comes as no surprise that female employees bore the brunt of these burdens, with a reported 80% of the 1.1 million people who exited the workforce being women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The numbers are worse for women of color.

I was one of the lucky ones; for the three-month stretch that my day care was entirely closed, my husband and I had enough flexibility that we cobbled together a schedule, bolstered by “hiring” our 11 year old to oversee her siblings in the afternoons, and lots of working at odd hours. This schedule, and to a lesser extent the following months until my second grader finally returned to a classroom 2 days/week in February 2021, did not exactly leave room for “passion projects.” So in case anyone is wondering, my pandemic accomplishments include keeping three children and two dogs alive and reasonably happy, staying married, and staying employed.

Tweets Follow

Nov 22

The 2022 World Cup is underway in Qatar - Some guidance on World Cup issues in the workplace https://t.co/QeBPc4qT6v

Nov 21

Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave Releases New Model Notices and Poster https://t.co/E003ZYvn1n

Nov 17

A Divided Congress: Implications for Employers https://t.co/iJAv61UCvT