Working in the office (co-location), and working remotely (working fully off-site), do not have to be an either/or situation. What we are seeing now, as we come out of another lockdown, is the movement towards a hybrid way of working. Effectively, this is a balance between the two.
This sounds like a great solution. However, potential areas for concern include the negative impact on recent gender equality gains, if women choose not to return to the office as previously. This could include:
- A reduction in women’s visibility in the workplace and their visibility to critical decision-makers (in most sectors these roles tend to be held by men).
- Impacting the opportunity to be considered for exciting projects or development opportunities etc. (out of sight, out of mind).
- A reduction in important informal networking opportunities such as before or after in-person meetings, or the casual coffee to catch up.
- Potentially affecting gains in addressing the gender pay gap. If more women work from home and as a consequence end up working longer hours, the extra hours may not be taken into account in relation to the effort they are making, and as a result, their pay will not fully represent their worth.
- And if women are getting less stretch opportunities in the workplace it may also impact their ability to progress at the same rate as previously.
However these are not insurmountable barriers, and by applying a more strategic approach to hybrid working rather than allowing it to grow unchecked and organically, some potential pitfalls could be mitigated.
This might include undertaking a gender impact assessment to understand the scope of the potential problem, as well as identify where existing people systems and processes that currently support gender diversity in the organisation, might not support this new way of working.
Also, ask your employees – don’t assume hybrid working is a model that everyone wants to embrace. If they do choose to embrace it, ensure your organisation is equipped to mitigate any potential inequalities it could potentially generate.