Within any workplace, there are essential tasks that must get done. Marianne Cooper, senior research scholar at the VMware Women's Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford University, calls that "office housework." In the Harvard Business Review article "Research: Women Leaders Took on Even More Invisible Work During the Pandemic," she defines it as "necessary tasks and activities that benefit the company but go unrecognized, are underappreciated, and don't lead to career advancement."
She points out that the term is akin to "invisible work," which sociologist Arlene Kaplan Daniels coined in the 1980s to "describe forms of women's unpaid labor like housework and volunteer work that, while integral to the functioning of society, is not regarded as work and is culturally and economically devalued." Research confirms, Cooper says, that office housework is a burden that women and other traditionally marginalized groups disproportionately bear in the workplace. In addition to lack of recognition and missed career advancement opportunities, she explains that those who handle office housework are more likely to have burnout and exhaustion.