Is Hybrid Working Helping Women?

Woman hybrid worked 1

by Peter Cosgrove, MD of Futurewise Ltd.

We do not want to go back to the five day commute but that does not mean that we have “fixed” how we work. Anecdotal evidence has shown that hybrid working may actually be affecting women’s careers more than men’s. While everybody can benefit from the flexibility that hybrid gives us, women may be losing out in subtle ways:

  • Where men and women have kids and are in dual careers, women still do more of the “second shift” workload, managing the house, the kids, the elderly parents etc. in this new hybrid world this often means they are more likely to work from home even when it may suit them/benefit them to be in the office.
  • Secondly when a male/ female couple both work from home it is much more common that the woman is in the shared space like the kitchen or bedroom, while the male occupies the study space. This clearly makes interruptions more commonplace.
  • Thirdly, in the book The No Club, they found that the median woman spent about 200 more hours per year than the median man doing NPTs, non promotable tasks (eg organising the thank you card, the birthday cake, the teambuilding event). While this in itself needs to be examined, these NPTs are even worse when appreciation one may have received when in the office is now invisible.
  • Finally, a recent Deloitte survey highlighted that burnout is on the rise for women working from home. The idea of hybrid work was working from anywhere, but it now feels like working from everywhere and all the time. When your computer is staring at you in the evening it is very easy to transfer back in to work mode. The benefits of flexibility may be offset by added stress and anxiety of your workplace and your home life not having boundaries.

It is true that Ireland has societal challenges like a poor childcare structure and businesses can do little about this. However, with International Women’s day on March 8th employers should look at what they can do. Employers can consider some of the ramifications of hybrid work and if the practices (not the policies) are fair. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Collect and analyse the data on how many days men and women at similar levels on similar teams are coming into the office, as most companies do not track this specifically. This is a good starting point.
  • Ask teams about their perceived challenges with hybrid working, is it as easy to attend hybrid meetings? is hybrid working leading to missing out? is proximity bias still an issue? Ask for their ideas on what might work better. We are still at the start of this new way of working so continue to look at iterating practices.
  • Investigate whether it would be better to have all teams in on the same two or three days a week. While complete flexibility on when to attend the office may seem better, it may not end up being fairer when you look at the team dynamics/ attendance.
  • Understand that working hybrid may make it harder to develop mentoring or sponsorship relationships, ensure this is something you do not leave to happenstance and ensure sponsorship is a huge focus for developing your next generation of leaders.

Hybrid and remote represent huge advantages for everyone and we will never go back to the old ways of working, but lets ensure that the new way of working is equitable.

About the author

Peter Cosgrove leads Futurewise and is an expert on future trends and a much sought-after speaker on talks related to the future of work. He has over 25 years business experience on executive teams as well as on not for profit boards as board member and Chairman. He has been Chair of Junior Achievement Ireland, the National Recruitment Federation and currently serves on the 30% Club Steering Committee tackling gender balance and is Vice Chairman of Aware, a leading mental health charity. Peter has served as a Board adviser for a number of Staffing organisations and has been a contributor to the Expert Group on Future Skills.