The pandemic introduced a new age of flexibility to office workers. While working from home and shifting work schedules were born out of COVID-19 necessity, there were serendipitous benefits for those who were juggling their personal lives.
Notably, diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E&I) improvements were seen. Women who have often borne the brunt of caregiving responsibilities could now manage childcare personally while working remotely.
As a result, remote and hybrid work was a hit with many employees. McKinsey’s American Opportunities Survey spoke to 25,000 US employees and discovered that 87% of people were seizing the opportunity to work flexibly.
Discussing the impact of the pandemic on women, Aleksandra Majkic, an IT business development professional, previously told UNLEASH: “What I see as its greatest benefits are flexibility, sense of freedom, and being able to manage personal time more effectively.
“I am not only referring to hours spent commuting but also long meetings, sometimes imposed work dinners. To me, the ability to make my own plans, spend time with my family, support kids as they’ve both started school, and having that sense of freedom is irreplaceable.”
Flexibility has been an incentive for many. In fact, Rebecca Maslen-Stannage the chair and senior partner of Herbert Smith Freehills gave her insight to the Financial Times about why flexibility was important to her when she took her role last year.
Flexible work and caring
Speaking about the impact of the pandemic on her career, Maslen-Stannage told the FT: “Ironically the pandemic [helped] because of the fact that in the first year I wasn’t going to need to travel [for work]. . . so that was significant, having had the absolute bonus of time at home with my children [during the crisis].”
This improvement in inclusion reportedly gave women and lawyers with caring responsibilities more flexibility. This is essential as Motherly found that 45% of mothers who are currently unemployed left the world of work due to childcare issues after speaking to 10,000 mothers.
Currently, the company has employees come in 60% of the time across its 25 offices.
Maslen-Stannage noted: “The critical change was that clients suddenly thought it was OK [for us] to not be in the office, and working somewhere else . . . it opened up opportunities for lawyers to be more creative about [their time].”
She added: “It’s challenging to have young children and do what we do. I can still feel the stress of a client call with small toddlers in the background . . . There are still societal issues in some cultures, where it’s assumed that women will take on the caring role.”
Burnout and bias
Evidently, flexibility is just the first step in a more inclusive workplace. In fact, working from home can lead to a worse work-life balance it can add to the stresses that parents face.
Motherly discovered that 62% of mothers dedicated five or more hours to child and household duties during personal time outside of work. On top of that, 93% of mothers were burnt out, and 38% claimed they were completely burnt out.
If that wasn’t enough, proximity bias is an issue those who work remotely are facing. Jonathan Hill, CEO of The Energists, a Houston-based executive search and recruiting firm told UNLEASH: “Managers working in the same physical environment as team members have more opportunities to observe their work, correct mistakes, and praise successes.
“Remote employees get less direct supervision, meaning both their errors and their accomplishments are more likely to pass by unremarked.”
There is no one-stop solution for a diverse and inclusive workplace. However, giving employees flexibility, manageable workflows, and allowances for their personal lives is essential.
When businesses empower diverse employees, they can begin creating successful outcomes that lead to gains for the organization.
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