Women in The Remote Workplace

An important ongoing discussion has been how inclusive and supportive the traditional work environment is for women?

Now, with the pandemic, the focus has shifted to the remote work environment, which comes with more factors to consider. In response to this shift, we delve into some advantages and disadvantages of the remote work environment for women in this week's blog piece. As we explore these aspects of remote work, we need to first take into consideration the fact that none of these benefits or drawbacks should be viewed as the experience of all women. We need to remember that every woman’s experience working remotely is unique; however, this discussion on remote work gives insight into some points that are fairly common. 

The Good

Better Communication

When done right, communication in a remote working environment empowers women to adequately articulate their perspectives without the fear of being shut down. Although the fear of being shut down should not exist, the traditional office environment, with meetings and events that typically favor out-spoken men, still has a long way to go in dealing with this issue.  However, the remote environment greatly helps. In a remote work setting, the prevalent communication tools, besides zoom meetings, are email, messages, and popular communication platforms like slack. These means of communication give women the time to properly think about and explain their opinions so that they can be well understood by other team members and leaders. Furthermore, working remotely enables everyone the chance to talk about a subject matter, because its modes of communication remain open. By contrast, an in-person meeting lasts for a limited time and mostly the naturally out-spoken individuals would voice their perspectives within the time period. Lastly, most of the communication methods of remote work do not occur in in real time, and so, the chances of someone talking over or interrupting a woman are low.

More Opportunities for Women Irrespective of Geographical Distance

Before remote work became the standard, women and men had to compete for limited job opportunities in places that could easily be accessed by them. Remote work increases the pool of options for women, giving them the ability to be employees of companies that align with their values and for which they are passionate about.

More so, remote work, if done right, widens the network opportunities available to women. As everything is online, women are not restricted to current networks that may be male dominated or of no real service to them; they can form connections with people from diverse areas, giving them more control over the networks they are a part of. Besides that, since most networking events are now online, working mothers may find it easier to attend these events because the factor of travelling to locations has been eradicated. 

Work Life Balance

On one hand, it could be that remote work leads to lack of work-life balance, especially among working mothers. On the other hand, working remotely may afford women the flexibility to excel at both the home and work. Irelaunch.com describes some of the ways this flexibility shines through:

“Remote workers can slip out to pick up a child or bring a meal to an elderly mother-in-law and then resume working nearly seamlessly during the work day. For those with kids, school vacations, snow days, sick days and early dismissals are not as disruptive.”

In essence, women may pursue careers in spite of demanding home duties. 

The Bad

Clash Between Work and Home Life

Women may find it more difficult to achieve work-life separation as remote employees, and this results in lack of balance and structure in their lives. Working from home means that the same location is utilized for home and work activities. Without this distinction in location, home responsibilities may spill into the time meant for work and vice versa. Moreover, there is added pressure to juggle every duty, since they are all being done in the same place. These problems are more prevalent among women, particularly working moms, as they usually are in charge of most household obligations. There are adverse consequences to this. Firstly, proper attention and time are not dedicated to either area of life, resulting in neither a flourishing home nor work life. Secondly, women experience burnout and stress. These consequences culminate in the inability of women, especially working mums to advance their careers and increase their work productivity.

Minimal Career Advancement

We should also consider how working remotely may negatively affect the progression of women’s careers, especially when businesses return to physical work environments after the pandemic. Even when this transition does occur, more women than men will find it harder to work in an office setting. Consequently, men are in a more advantageous position to further their careers than their female colleagues.

This is due to a number of reasons. To begin with, working in the office allows t male workers to be more connected to the company community and attend more events, hence, enabling them to have a stronger and broader company network. Next, the male employees may stand a better chance at building stronger relationships with key decision makers in the company because they have the advantage of physical interaction. The last reason is that physical presence in the office, regardless of the level of productivity, can allow men make a positive impression on company managers and heads, leading to more promotions than their female colleagues. Mary Noonan, a professor of Sociology at the University of Iowa whose research focuses on gender and work, provided another angle to this point in a 2020 article by cbsnews.com. She asserts that "in traditional workplaces, it's not about what you produce, it's more about where you are, and if you aren't in the office, you may miss out on new projects or what's going on or a new strategy."

The primary aim of this article is not that women should weigh the good and bad of remote work and make a choice. Rather, the objective of the article is that companies understand how remote work can be harmful and beneficial to women, and make the necessary changes for a work environment that truly uplifts women. 

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