How Covid Has Helped Women in Returning Back Due To WFH Flexibility
In the recruitment space, we have seen a 60% increase in overall remote job applications within the industry, and a 50% increase in women’s applicants and the remote working capability is a major contributor.
Covid-19 has disrupted professional life in a variety of ways. It has sparked industry leaders and corporations to rethink the traditional patterns of office life and created buzz around the topic. The pandemic has put pressure on company leaders to prioritize and question the status quo, where previously, the very subject was not deemed important.
Work from home is the new norm. Across the world, the technology giants, especially within software, were able to adapt the quickest and implement the most drastic changes and maintain continuity and growth. This was logical as most employees in software companies only really require a laptop, access to WiFi and a smartphone.
Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told staff it was "aggressively opening up remote hiring.” He expects half of its workforce to do their jobs outside Facebook's offices over the next five to 10 years. Twitter announced that employees can work from home forever if they so choose.
There are many more examples of companies, outside software and tech, that are making major changes like Barclays, Mastercard and WPP. Employees have been asking the question for many years. “Why do I have to be in the office to do my job?” It needed a global pandemic to break this norm.
We are now approximately ten months into the pandemic and WFH. Is it perfect? No. Is it better for flexibility, productivity, happiness and general freedom? Most would argue that it is.
Amongst the biggest benefactors of WFH are women returning to work. It is not uncommon for new mothers to park their professional lives after having children.
“After sixteen weeks of bed rest, my career, the very thing that had defined me, simply wasn’t what defined me anymore. Yes, I had skills and abilities I wanted to put to good use in the world, but right here, right now, this new baby, her older brother, and my husband mattered more than my job” - Lisen Stromberg, Managing Partner and Founder, PrismWork
It is a sweeping generalisation that all women should retire professionally after childbirth. Ambition and career goals are important to women regardless of the circumstances. Work from home has facilitated an easier transition back to work as flexibility is the fundamental mechanism.
Let’s dive into the plus points of work from home.
Firstly, there is no longer a daily commute. The average person spends 90 minutes a day commuting back and forth to the office. Most companies that have switched to WFH have not mandated that this time now be spent doing extra work. That time is essentially given back to the employee. An extra hour or so a day to spend with the family or for yourself. This has provided immense benefit to working mothers.
Secondly, there has been a trend of remote workers moving out of metro cities and returning back to their hometowns or setting up bases in Tier 2 and 3 cities to cut costs. Many women have been a part of this movement due to the obvious benefits of support structures and it being more economical.
The next point is on asynchronous working schedules. The 9-to-5 routine is largely a thing of the past. Very few professions can realistically fit into this schedule. Busy and quiet periods are cyclical, and the hours put in during a day should reflect that. With work from home, an important factor is chemistry with your team and understanding of prioritization. The dynamic of working when your home is obviously different than in an office, where you may be required to sit at a designated desk, in proximity to your team and be at your desk for the large part of a day. The flexibility of working from home allows workers to be task-oriented rather than time-oriented. For women taking care of children while working, this is of huge benefit as they can cycle between work between the two with relative ease and not have the stress of fulfilling a traditional 8-9 hour working day.
The last point is on retraining and upskilling. For career progression and growth, continual learning and development is critical. We learn plenty on the job but oftentimes, there can be saturation and eventually, there will be repetitiveness. Some organizations realize this and offer employees training programs. Other companies do not have such offerings and encourage workers to train on their own time. For returning women, this can be very challenging, especially in the confines of an office and a fixed schedule. WFH flexibility allows women to juggle their job, family and upskilling in a manner that is convenient to them.
In the recruitment space, we have seen a 60% increase in overall remote job applications within the industry, and a 50% increase in women’s applicants and the remote working capability is a major contributor. Therefore, the signs are evident that there is confidence in adopting the new working norm.
Working from home cannot be purely positive and can come with drawbacks, like monotony and lack of physical interaction with colleagues. However, there are almost never absolute solutions to anything. For women, especially returning women, WFH offers a level of flexibility and freedom that working full-time in an office never can, just from a practical perspective. A hybrid approach is likely the best overall solution and it will be interesting to see how corporate policies unfold in the near future.