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How does work-from-home sustain workplace development?

Closure of schools and non-essential businesses during COVID-19 pandemic gives an opportunity for more people to work remotely. Under this context, this report will analyse how remote work affected gender-equality at work. If the teleworking environment makes the women fortunate to have a work-life balance, opt for more well-paid jobs and become truly financially independent.

Teleworking was never a new phenomenon but COVID-19 pandemic made it almost compulsory. Now, a number of big companies have allowed remote work even post COVID era. So, remote working seems to be a normal feature of corporate culture in future. It becomes an essential tool for the economies to survive. Reports suggest the likelihood to continue teleworking by almost 87% of employees.

So, we can think if remote work is going to bridge the gender divide. While many reports claimed that COVID-19 impacted women negatively and they lost their Jobs. Hence, in this article we would like to present teleworking as a double edged sword for the women and gender disparities that need to be carefully analysed and managed. We will analyse if it can eliminate the culture of “presenteeism” that penalises the female workers? Will women lead in teleworking in future? What would be the effects on pay gap, training, remuneration, and overall career growth? Another important question to dwell upon is their probable role in home responsibilities and child care. 

Benefits of Teleworking

After COVID-19 pandemic, teleworking has gained acceptance tremendously. Countries where remote work was more common saw even more spectacular growth in remote jobs after the pandemic. According to a report by Eurofound 2020, in Finland, remote working reached around 60% while in Italy and Austria, it is about 40%.

Some reports even show short term productivity gains like OECD, 2020 and CIPD, 2020. While some reports present a low productivity. So, overall productivity results are still inconclusive. But one can count upon the visible gains to the employees flexibility and ease. 

Employees can work from everywhere and anytime as per their schedule and flexibility. They can fulfil commitments for their family life and interests. This work-life balance would definitely improve their satisfaction, ease their frustration and enhance their innovation and creativity, which all are key indicators for the organisational productivity gains as well. Even less time on commute will help the employees to spend more time on family, leisure activities, sports or learning new skills.

Studies show that employees have been using extra time saved by not commuting for their primary jobs. Researchers at the University of Chicago and University of Stanford found that in America, employees are using 35% of their saved work to perform their primary work. This is beneficial for the businesses. 

Gains from Remote Work for Women

Most media attention has been on the job losses by the women due to the pandemic. There has been less research and attention being given to those women who retained their jobs and work remotely. It is highly crucial for the understanding of impacts that women actually feel and likely to face due to teleworking on their career and life-work balance. 

Social scientists always blame inflexible work schedules and locations as one of the major reasons behind gender inequality at workplaces and the economy.

The failure of companies to make flexible work arrangements for women led to inability of women to apply for the well-paid jobs. While men could not contribute towards their fair share at home. COVID-19 has changed the scenario completely. Companies have now forcefully changed their work policies in favour of remote work. Luckily improvements in communication technologies enable this remote work environment to become more seamless and efficient.

Now, employees are reluctant to lose their newfound flexibility and back to offices even if the COVID-19 would subsidise completely.

Now what is required is a change from “management from control” to “management by results”.

Game Changer for Women

For most people remote work means work from home with flexible work arrangements provided by the businesses. 

Women usually avoid longer commutes due to their household responsibilities. Now location doesn’t matter. Women can work for well-paid jobs at the major urban centres from remote locations.

There might be two effects of teleworking on men and the companies. Men might realise the importance and joy of family upbringing and companies can realise that work performance of an employee is not tied with the workplace. Hence, these two consequences might force even more prominent teleworking. In such a scenario, women can be trusted more by the companies to adopt telework without the presumption that they would devote their time to childcare and thus hamper quality of work.

Overall, remote work can help achieve sustainable development goal five of the United Nations that promotes gender equality. With flexible work schedules and remote job opportunities women can perform their jobs at their own schedules and simultaneously can perform their household duties. Women do not need to choose between work and family. They do not need to sacrifice any of their responsibilities. They can be effective professionals with high-quality work. Research also shows that remote work makes employees more productive.

The best part is that even gender diverse companies outperform other companies financially by 15%.

Families can balance household responsibilities more equally among men and women.

An average worker spends at least 52 minutes commuting. With remote work this extra time can be saved and spent on personal tasks. Not only women but men who save this time can share their household responsibilities and hence giving extra time to women for their professional work. This promotes the SDG 5 with target 5.4 that promotes shared responsibilities within the household and the family.

More Diverse, Inclusive and Empowered Workplaces

Remote work not only enhances productivity and gives flexibility to the employees but it also makes the workplaces more inclusive and diverse crucial to bring gender equality, creativity and fresh ideas.

Due to travelling and fixed workplaces and schedules millions of women left the workforce. Hence, removal of schedule and time constraints would help women to join the workforce and make the workplaces more diverse, productive and gender inclusive.

Quality remote work culture would focus more on productive contribution by the employees instead of where the employees sit, what is the facetime and what is the gender. Now the main focus would be on the performance of employees to achieve organizational goals rather than penalising employees for not presenting physically at work location.

Women can provide their best skills for the businesses with flexible schedules and time limits. They don’t need to be  full time workers and they can earn as per their skills and time.

We surely need to save companies assets and track employees’ performance but not at the expense of employees’ privacy and choice.

Overall, remote work is an opportunity for all women to join the workforce and earn well-paid remuneration. After all, half of the world population can not remain idle and unproductive. 

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