It’s almost 8 p.m. and Kayla can’t wait for her kids to hit the hay. Not so she can finally relax, though, but so she can get back to work and finish her next report.
A silver lining of working from home, she thought, would be having more free time in the day. She no longer needed to commute and expected this would translate to getting a few more things done around the house too. The opposite happened; her workload increased, as did the number of hours she worked in a day, and the already thin boundaries she had between her personal life and work evaporated.
The Work From Home Gender Gap
The work from home gender gap has many of the hallmarks of the pre-existing gender gap, plus a whole host of new factors. For starters, women are leading the way in the great resignation as they leave their jobs in much higher numbers than men. In fact, one third of American women resigned from their positions or reduced their work hours since the pandemic began.
The driving force behind this disparity appears to be the heavier burden women often bear at home. Of employed adults with children, women are three times more likely than men to be the primary caregiver.
It goes the other direction too; daughters tend to spend more time looking after elderly parents than their brothers do. The results are clear: women, especially with children, are experiencing higher rates of stress and depression. Whereas roughly four-in-five men claim to be happy with working from home, just over a third of women report having a positive experience according to McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom. Working from home affects everyone differently. Extroverted, social people miss interacting with colleagues; many introverts are content at home.
Remote workers are also now spared from long commutes and may have an easier time juggling housework. And, some work environments can be stressful or toxic. Working remotely can give people the option to disconnect from others while they focus on their tasks. Telecommuting also offers a degree of protection from dangers, such as sexual harassment, that women may encounter in their workplace.
Some of the issues facing women have certainly gotten worse in the last couple years. Yet, work from home might also provide a unique opportunity to close the gender gap in some areas.
Closing the Work From Home Gender Gap
As remote workers don’t have to be in a physical office from 9-5 each day, employers in many fields could now offer staff flexible working hours. This provides a crucial lifeline to parents who have kids to care for or other responsibilities that conflict with traditional business hours.
Defining working hours, whether it’s 9-5 or six hours during the day and two in the evening, can help accommodate this as well as give employees a better work-life balance and separation. It also helps ease the worries of some managers who, unable to physically see or check in on staff, suspect that they aren’t working when they are supposed to be. A complaint we’ve heard from women working from home is that their managers feel as though they aren’t working even when they are delivering results.
Clear and open communication between staff and management is essential here. It’s important for employees to voice their concerns and feel comfortable to do so, while managers need to be receptive to different types of issues than they would’ve encountered in years past.
Ultimately when it comes to working from home everyone’s situation is different. Some have kids, others don’t. Some have elderly parents or pets in the house. Some people work in the same room as their partners. Others have home offices with ergonomic furniture, whereas their colleagues might need financial support in getting the equipment they need to do their jobs.
Recognizing everyone’s unique circumstances is a key step to closing the work from home gender gap. Giving staff the option of hybrid work further allows people to choose the arrangement that suits their lives best. This is just one of many ways employers and policy makers can empower women.
Hybrid Work and the Gender Gap
Perhaps an employee really enjoys in-person meetings but has come to rely on skipping their commute sometimes to get more housework or errands done. And hybrid work doesn’t necessarily mean dividing the week between days at home and days in the office. Another option is to permit staff to alternate working from home for a week or two and then in the office for a week or two. This can make arranging childcare much easier as well.
Lastly, all workers regardless of gender or where they work should have the same opportunities for advancement and receive fair compensation.
The hybrid and remote work era that we are now in also changes the dynamic of the household. Though mothers still carry a heavier load than fathers when it comes to housework and childcare, fathers are now doing three times the amount of childcare their forefathers were doing in the 1970s.
Partners who both work from home have the chance to spend more time together and, hopefully, strive towards a more balanced household. Flexible working arrangements are correlated to increased employment rates for mothers as well. The number of mothers with young children who report planning to leave their jobs within a year drops by a third among those working remotely.
This isn’t all to say that working from home is the solution to the inequalities seen throughout our population. But, it is an opportunity to narrow the gender gap at least a little.
At EWI Works, we recognize that the employee experience is an intersection of psychological, social, physical, and career developmental factors, especially for women. This is why we spent the last year and a half developing the e3 tool. In just 20-minutes this tool assesses these factors to create your personalized report. Based on the latest research in psychology and ergonomics, this report will guide you through improving and enhancing this crucial part of your life, covering topics such as:
- Physical work environment
- Workplace organization
- Social dynamics
- Psychological factors
- Energy levels
- Professional growth and development
EWI Works offers many services that can improve your quality of life. We have developed several cost-effective remote services to help you transition to remote work. Find out more about our Online Training, Services, and Resources.