Home Office Post-COVID: An Added Benefit
Throughout the pandemic, new challenges arose for companies all over the world highlighting the need for adaptation and flexibility.
However, after these challenging times, remote work has also been recognized as a powerful tool to improve existing deficiencies within the business world including employee retention, boosting company branding as well as the improvement of inclusion and diversity within organisations.
But how exactly? Remote work enables access to a wide larger talent pool, leading to greater diversity in gender, age, educational level, ethnicity and more.
Not only the access to talent is therefore facilitated. The added benefits of remote work might improve the brand image of a company and thus also attract more and better talent.
A study conducted by Linkedin pinpointed the aspects of remote work that make this working approach likeable to prospective candidates:
- Independence and free allocation of work
- Flexible work-life balance
- Excellent compensation and benefits
Even though these benefits result appealing to most of the workforce, some talent groups seem keener on it than others.
While men, as well as women, are both being confronted with the challenge of making their personal and professional obligations compatible, a study conducted by the German Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth revealed that women still work an average of 1.5 hours more unpaid care work per day than men, which exposes a reason of why these benefits are regarded as even more attractive to female employees than to male, with women being 26% more likely to apply to a remote position.
Accordingly, the flexibility provided by a remote working approach has been praised as a tool to enforce gender equality, enabling women to keep pursuing their careers on a full-time basis without cutting down on hours or stopping altogether.
But is this really the case? Not quite.
Risks of Remote Work for Women
Risk of Increasing Gender Disparity in the Workplace
As mentioned above, remote work itself has provided flexibility, adaptability, improvement in work-life balance and has also contributed to improving the diversity within companies all over the world. However, as is the case with most things in life, it is not only black or white.
The problem with this way of thinking is related to society’s pre-existing beliefs on gender normative views, with flexible working potentially contributing to traditionalizing gender roles in the labour market as well as in households.
Therefore, remote work can act as an enabler but can also increase gender disparity in the workplace
Middle Management Retention
A study conducted by the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin showed that trends have been shifting throughout the pandemic: even though childcare was been distributed more equally at the beginning of the pandemic, this trend has not remained and even found that women are more likely to reduce their working hours than men.
As a consequence more and more women are fearing getting stuck in their current position, having the feeling that flexible working will affect their likelihood to promote. A study conducted by Deloitte “Women @ Work: A Global Outlook” revealed that 94% of the surveyed women are afraid that requesting flexible work will affect their likelihood of promotion and 90% believe their workloads won’t be adjusted accordingly if they requested working remotely.
Furthermore, working from home can make it tricky to balance personal life and work. Against any prognostic many have experienced a stronger prioritisation of work and increased productivity throughout the course of the pandemic. This however was mainly the case for men both with and without children as well as for women without children.
This again highlights the above-mentioned risk that even though women with children might be able to keep working full time, it is more their retention in lower management levels rather than their advancement into senior levels.
Lack of Face-To-Face Networking
Networking nowadays comes in many shapes and forms. However face-to-face interaction remains a prevalent way of getting in touch with decision-makers and other important networking possibilities.
It remains unclear if the amount of face-to-face interaction will have a direct impact on career perspectives. However, if this would be the case, the fact that women seem to prefer working remotely in relation to men might impact their access to career benefits and direct feedback that are easier available through face-to-face interaction.
These risks showcase how remote work can also become a risk that enforces existing barriers and inequalities based on gender such as the pay gap or making the glass ceiling even harder to trespass.
But wait a minute: Is remote work therefore a harmful working approach in the fight against discrimination on the basis of gender that should be avoided? By no means!
Four Tips on How to Tackle Discrimination in a Hybrid Organisation
Okay, now we understand that by implementing a remote working approach, your company will not automatically become gender-balanced or more diverse altogether. The perks of remote work come with work, structure and in the best case, policies that ensure the correct use of it.
It is the task of leaders to ensure adaptation and inclusion within a hybrid company, where some people might be at the office every day and some only once a month.
So what is it that leaders can do to effectively implement remote work as a strategy to increase diversity not only in terms of gender but on every level while making it successful for everyone involved?
Here we have 4 tips for your organisation to challenge inequality within your organisation:
1. Focus on the Output
Move away from the perception of physical presence equaling productivity. Upgrade and adapt your performance evaluation processes to ensure an evaluation based on meritocracy rather than on how much time is spent in the office to increase fairness.
2. Avoid the Development of Two Tiers of Employees
Make sure that going to the office is available to everyone and does not become a status symbol or an equivalent to a VIP area. This implies the provision of an equal amount of flexibility and hybrid access for everyone – as long as their job is doable independently from the location – and examining the distribution of different talent groups that take advantage of remote work and the ones that do prefer working from the office.
3. Adapt Your Company Culture to the Newly Acquired Diversity
Remote work has enabled global talent access, allowing companies to become more diverse than ever. However, it will be key for your organisation to adapt the company culture to the increased diversity in order to make it a place where all your employees, no matter if they are working from home, from another country or come to the office every day. This can be achieved through a mentor program or by building a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) committee, making sure that everyone has a voice independent of their location. Involving employees and asking them for advice through surveys or any other ways of exchange is also a smart way to go since they will be the ones experiencing the difficulties that may arise.
4. Challenge Existing Assumptions
Try to move away from stereotypes and embedded gender-normative assumptions linked to working parents. This will be key for many reasons but especially to fight the stigmatisation of remote work as something that individuals that do not prioritize work make use of.
Even though the above-mentioned recommendations are not only related to female inclusion but to anyone that chooses – or has to – to work remotely, women do hold a high proportion of remote workers within hybrid organisations and are therefore at higher risk than men of facing discrimination and miss opportunities that might present themselves within the walls of office space.
Of course, there is no perfect way to fight all inequalities. The more diverse your company becomes, the more perspectives you will need to take into consideration in order to make your company a healthy and inclusive space for everyone. The best way to go is to remain aware and open about emerging challenges and work against stereotypes or gender-normative roles in order to counterbalance inequalities.
Working remotely or simply from home is a great opportunity and it would be a great mistake to classify it as harmful. It is a matter of structure and awareness so that leaders know how to best address the above-mentioned challenges so that organisations and talents – independently of their geographical location – learn to appreciate and profit from it.