Women have always faced challenges in the workplace, and the advent of the work from home setup simply throws you a new set to overcome. Being aware of the different pros and cons of WFH can help you find the best solution and adapt accordingly to the new normal. With challenges come opportunity for change, a change women could use to level the playing field.
It's been almost a year since the lives of working women around the world experienced a sudden shift. With remote working becoming the default position for many employees amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many have found themselves being torn between the excitement and comfort of working from home and the yearning for the familiar structure that the office environment once provided.
Today many workers complain about the challenges remote work has created especially the blurring of boundaries between professional and personal lives being foremost among them. Thanks to modern technology such as chat apps, video conferencing and cloud software, the global work-from home experiment has worked seamlessly and is now more sustainable than ever before, leading many companies to declare that workers may never need to return to the office if they so choose.
Indeed, the team at half the sky, often ponders whether we will ever return to the office or is this truly the “new normal”. Despite some of the benefits that working from home offers especially for women there are notable drawbacks. So, which option is best for you? Let’s take a look at both the pros and cons of both sides of the work from home phenomenon.
WFH puts women in an interesting position. Ideally, as women working from home, they have more flexibility with their time and previous biases on women in the workplace are greatly reduced in effect.
However, that's only one side of the coin. As we're about to show you, there's more to remote work than we thought, especially considering the circumstances that brought us here:
1. Reduced Bias on Appearance
Unconscious bias brings irrelevant factors into the decision-making process. Age, ethnicity, gender, weight, and even hair color can play a role in personal assessments of candidates and employees and influence the decision to hire, fire, and promote in the workplace.
In remote work, the only time you'll see your other coworkers will probably be through the computer screen and only the top half of their body. This limited interaction means others will be less likely to be affected by such unconscious biases. Women can compete solely on the work that they produce and grow their voice and influence.
2. Opportunities For the Marginalized
As companies create remote working opportunities, you could find yourself working with someone who lives in a completely different continent. Not only does this open the gates for greater diversity and understanding in the virtual workplace, but previously marginalized groups can also thrive in a more open and inclusive environment.
No matter your background or living arrangements, if they don't affect the way you work and the results you give, they won't influence how your coworkers will see you anymore. You can firmly stand on equal footing with everyone else.
3. Equal Communication
Another struggle for women at work is being heard, especially in work cultures that promote and reward aggressive communication which can include interrupting, a failure to listen and speaking in a loud voice. Getting your ideas out in this environment tends to come down to being the loudest voice in the room. An environment most women dislike with a vengeance.
When you're in a virtual meeting, it's easier for everyone to get their chance to talk. Talking over someone makes both speakers unintelligible, making interruptions more unlikely. And if you are softly spoken, you'll be better heard through the mic and everyone can just turn up the volume either way.
4. Personal Freedom
Women want to be judged by their work but it's hard when everyone in the office is also privy to your other, more personal choices. What you wear, what you order in the cafeteria, and—an especially controversial topic—when mothers breastfeed in the office, are all subject to the opinions of the people you work with.
When you're working from home, their opinions won't reach your ears anymore. Unless you personally tell them over team video calls, they won't know how you plan to make dinner or what you do in your free time.
5. Flexible Schedule
One of the primary benefits of WFH is the flexibility to arrange your daily activities. Even before the pandemic, working from home has been the desired solution for mothers who have just given birth and want to work the same hours along with their childrearing duties.
The only problem is that women who WFH face a stigma. Their coworkers don't expect that they can perform on the same level as those who are in the office. But with WFH as the new norm, there's no reason for this expectation anymore as everyone is on the same level.
1. More Effort to Stay Visible
While many are working remotely, there will be others who will have to stay in the office. This divide becomes more apparent as quarantine rules and pandemic regulations start to loosen. The difference in the visibility of each worker may cause a skewed perspective from the management.
Men may be called in to the office more than the women who find WFH more convenient. This may cause men to become part of informal yet vital discussions in the office while women will only be part of the official announcements and meetings afterward.
2. Less Opportunities for Networking
Career progression usually relies on networking that happens outside the office. Without those oft-unexpected opportunities to connect with others, women may find it more difficult to promote themselves. The number of women who nominate themselves for promotion in the workplace is already low so the WFH setup could diminish this even more.
3. Burdens on Mental Health
Women working at home now find several aspects of their lives happening in a concentrated space. As the lines between work and home increasingly become blurred, women’s mental health could be subject to higher levels of stress. The stress is further compounded by fears brought by the pandemic. Worries over the safety of their loved ones and greater economic insecurity.
4. Conflicting Priorities
In relation to the previous point, women wear many hats at home, and when work is added to the mix, it will become an exhausting juggling act to shift between priorities. To compare, men tend to prioritize their career whereas women being the primary caregivers not just for the immediate family but for extended family such as grandparents and in laws could find the juggling act not compatible with developing their careers. Women feel a strong sense of responsibility for both WFH may place them at a difficult crossroads.
5. Disrupted Work-Life Balance
“Don't take your work home with you” was once a well understood phrase that your manager may have once uttered to you to encourage you to down tools and relax, but with the greater blurring of the line between work and home life - finding work life balance has become a greater challenge especially for women. Balancing work and life were never easy, but at least we had our sanctuary which was usually the comforts of home. Today, home is no longer that sanctuary causing a greater risk to the mental wellness of workers.
Working from home brings its own set of challenges for women but it also provides unique opportunities. It will take a lot of adjusting for women to balance all these important parts of their life and things may get worse before they get better.
But over time, the benefits will outweigh the cons. Women have to make the most of the good so that they can make it work for them and their companies. A new age of work is upon us and work from home is firmly in the center.
Half the Sky's mission is to supply the tools that can give every woman the ability to build a successful career and be fully prepared for the future of work. So, that they can lead a healthy, prosperous and more balanced/blended lifestyle of their choosing. By building your confidence, you’re setting foundations to empower yourself and your career. The world is your oyster, and it starts with you.
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About half the sky
half the sky (HTS) is a career platform for women connecting you to career opportunities at companies that care. Providing you with information, tips and strategies to navigate the rapidly changing workplace.