As the pandemic nears to an end (everything crossed), companies are starting to announce return to work policies. Many revolve around home working. A few days ago, ASDA declared they would adopt a permanent hybrid model for office workers. Jacki Simpson, Asda’s vice president of people operations, said: ‘We have learned a great deal about working patterns during the last 16 months and have seen colleagues work productively across different locations.’
While not all companies will follow this model, it’s predicted many firms will adopt hybrid working and allow both office-based and non-office-based work. My initial thoughts were positive. I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I’m able to be flexible with where I work. If I wasn’t allowed that flexibility, I doubt I’d be in my current role today (a 5-day weekly commute feels too costly and time consuming). Working in recruitment, I see this regularly.
Companies can loose strong talent with rigid working patterns. Applicants can be interested in a role / company, but won’t be prepared to relocate or travel over an hour to offices. Being the positive Polly I am, I see hybrid working as a great positive to come from the pandemic. It shocked me to read an article from the Guardian, outlining why home working will cause a larger gender inequality gap. I decided to explore topic in more detail.
Why allowing home working could negatively effect gender equality
Professor Gary Cooper, Psychologist from Alliance Manchester Business School, informed The Guardian that if women opt to take home working options, while males decide to work on-site more, companies may perceive women negatively. He stated, ‘wider take-up of flexible working by men would alleviate gender inequality in the post-Covid workplace. “If they don’t, then we have a problem, as women will be working substantially from home and the men will go in more days a week than the women, and that will adversely affect their career.’ This outlook really emphasises the gender stereotypes within the family and doesn’t just harm women but also men. In society, males are penalised and seen to be less “manly” for embracing part-time work and home working. For gender equality to truly work, both sexes need to see benefit and be onboard.
Another adverse effect of home working is the lack of networking opportunities. This could lead to fewer promotion opportunities for women. Especially if the above paragraph is true and more men will be at the office, while women work from home. Virtual Work Insider studies this topic, looking at Distance Biased.
On top of this, gender communication differences could also play a role in disadvantaging women when looking at work from home. This article from Wisestep provides an overview of these differences. Women tend to ask more questions, look for support when solving issues and are better at building relationships in person. Working remotely on teams may stop women asking questions they usually would. I feel I ask more questions in person as it feels most natural.
How home working will positively impact diversity
Although the above points are all important considerations, not everyone shares the same view. If you google ‘benefits of working from home’, you’ll see countless results appear. Some of these reasons for home-working seem to benefit all genders.
More money, for instance. Pre-Covid, I worked 2 days a week at home; I’m now suddenly working from home daily. With this, I’ve noticed more disposable cash at the end of the month – probably as I’m no longer paying for travel and overpriced coffee! This has allowed me to save more than ever. On top of this, I love a good work outfit. Working from home has saved me time getting ready and put less pressure on me to look a certain way while I’m at work.
An article from Fast Company also highlights some benefits of home working for women. One being the removal of physical bias. The article examines studies that have shown taller people to earn more money. They suggest that ‘remote environment levels the playing field for one of the many examples of unconscious bias against many women that exist in person.’
Many of my female friends are pro a hybrid work model. We all agree that at home, we have been more productive, saved money and had more time for ourselves. I believe this option is a good way of improving equality if implemented correctly.
Home working should benefit both men and women. Companies need to create a policy that is effective for all associates. Instead of giving employees a choice, companies need to create a policy that all employees should follow. Everyone should have home working days and office-based days. This way, men do not have to feel pressure of being at work and women will not be left behind.
What are your thoughts? Is home working a good idea? Continue conversation by reading:
The Impact of Perception in the Workplace