Hybrid Working and workplace gender equality
By Louisa Pattison, Research Consultant
The benefits of Hybrid Working
A year on from writing a whitepaper for Roffey Park Institute on ‘Female Leadership in the Workplace‘, I’ve been reflecting on how things have changed in terms of workplace gender balance now that hybrid working arrangements are generally more embedded in some shape of form. For many of us, the ability to work from home has freed up more time to spend with family or pursue personal interests, reduced the stress of commuting every day, and increased our sense of loyalty to the organisation.
Among women in particular, remote working options have also created opportunities to take on roles that were previously inaccessible to them due to childcare commitments. In theory, remote or hybrid work therefore offers a solution for the declining numbers of women in leadership roles and the broader loss of female talent that organisations have seen in the past few years. But at the same time, these work arrangements come with many pitfalls and caveats that can potentially exacerbate issues around inclusion and gender equality.
My new paper published by Roffey Park Institute, ‘Female Leadership in the Workplace: Leveraging the benefits of hybrid working‘, explores some of the latest research on women’s experiences of hybrid working. Studies by Gallup and McKinsey indicated that compared to men, women are less likely to want to work mainly on-site (and more women than men are currently taking up a remote or hybrid arrangement).
Having this workplace flexibility is now a key expectation among women when it comes to choosing an employer or deciding whether to remain in their organisation. The evidence also shows that it is reaping many benefits for female workers, including lower experiences of burnout and harassment as well as improved work-life balance and job satisfaction.
The challenges of Hybrid Working
However, it is clear that many challenges remain around building a truly inclusive approach to hybrid working along with the right management practices to support it. The option for remote or hybrid arrangements is not currently available to all employees – according to Deloitte’s global survey, over half of women do not have such options in their or company.
Even when hybrid work arrangements are offered, they do not necessarily provide women with adequate flexibility in their working patterns. Plus, there is often a mismatch between what is communicated by employers around working from home and the reality, with many women saying that they are still expected to go into the workplace or that they believe requesting flexible arrangements could negatively impact their progression opportunities.
Championing female career advancement in the hybrid work environment must be a key area of focus for organisations to promote gender equality. Since the take-up of remote or hybrid arrangements is generally higher among women than men, they face a greater risk of being excluded from opportunities or lacking the organisational visibility and support to enable their progression. As shown in this years research, women have experienced a greater decline in career support and learning opportunities compared to men, and those with a remote or hybrid work arrangement are often not included in meetings, decisions, or informal interactions.
Overall, a lot of progress has been made since 2022 in women’s workplace empowerment, but there is still a long way to go. To leverage the opportunities of hybrid working for enhancing gender balance, companies can prioritise listening to employees’ needs, reducing the stigma around taking flexible work options, and training managers to ensure remote and hybrid employees get the same support and recognitions as those working on-site.
For a more in-depth exploration of the impact that hybrid working has had on gender equality in the workplace, read my recent whitepaper published by Roffey Park Institute, ‘Female Leadership in the Workplace: Leveraging the benefits of hybrid working.’