Making it Work for Women: The Opportunities and Obstacles of Remote Work
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the trend towards remote working, offering more people the opportunity to work flexibly in terms of hours and locations. While there are many benefits of flexible working arrangements, there are challenges for women who still bear the brunt of childcare and housekeeping responsibilities. Disproportionately, women face the challenges of balancing work and caregiving responsibilities including lack of access to affordable and reliable childcare, limited privacy and workspace leading to frequent distractions, and limited opportunities for social interaction and networking.
The benefits of remote working for women in the workplace
It's no surprise that flexible working arrangements, including the ability to work remotely, are highly sought after. And as a women-led agency, we are passionate about creating cultures environments and systems that enable women to contribute fully in the workforce. Flexible working patterns go some way towards doing this.
In fact, the results of a Working Mums survey from 2022 show that 86% of applicants would want to know about the potential employer's flexible working policy before tendering an application.
One of the main benefits of remote working for women is that it can allow them to manage their childcare responsibilities better. For instance, working from home can make it easier to look after children and manage school pick-up and drop-off.
The challenges faced by women who work remotely
The reality is that women are more likely to work part-time or take extended breaks to care for children, which can affect their career progression. Moreover, women are more likely to have to juggle multiple responsibilities, which can impact their ability to excel at work (even with remote arrangements).
Remote working also presents challenges for other groups of women, such as disabled women, who may face additional barriers in accessing remote working due to inadequate home working facilities. They may be more affected by unreliable internet due to relying on technology and online resources to a greater extent than non-disabled women. For instance, disabled women may need to use assistive technologies such as screen readers or text-to-speech software to access online content. Similarly, women from ethnic minority backgrounds may face additional challenges due to cultural expectations or language barriers.
So, what do we see as the solution for businesses to support women in a remote working environment?
Remote work: strategies to really make it work for women
To address these challenges, and make their policies and workplaces more inclusive, businesses should be looking to:
Implement policies that are inclusive and cater to the diverse needs of employees. This may include policies such as shared parental leave, flexible working hours, and reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities
Provide training and support to managers and employees to help them manage remote working effectively. This may include training on how to communicate and collaborate effectively, manage workloads, and maintaining work-life balance
Ensure that remote working is accessible to all employees, including those with disabilities. This may involve providing assistive technologies and ensuring that online content is accessible
Ensure that employees have access to the necessary technology and resources to work remotely. This may include providing laptops, reliable internet connections, and collaboration tools such as video conferencing software
Implement specific initiatives for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in remote teams. This could involve raising awareness of unconscious biases in remote work, encouraging the formation of diverse teams, and creating a supportive and inclusive virtual work environment
Everyone deserves a flexible working arrangement that works for them. Hopefully, given that the pandemic greatly accelerated the trend towards remote working, we're now closer to achieving that than ever before.