Over the last two years, the number of Europeans working regularly from home has at least doubled . In some ways, that’s great. It’s more convenient. It cuts the time and money spent on commuting. And it can enable a better work-life balance.
But there are potential downsides. If everyone is working remotely much of the time, it’s easy for people to become disconnected from the larger team and for their work to go under appreciated.
While this can impact anyone, there is the risk that it will particularly disadvantage women. A survey published last year found that two-thirds of millennial women believe they’ll miss career opportunities by not being in the office.
Many of us have spent years building formal and informal mentorship and networking programmes designed to give women access to the types of professional relationships and opportunities that men often enjoyed as a matter of course. If we all become, just a face — or voice — on a computer screen, we risk all the work unraveling.
So, what can employers do, to ensure that women’s work and talent continues to be seen, recognized and rewarded in this new era of remote and hybrid working?
Tips for managing remote or hybrid teams
1. Never treat remote staff as an afterthought. Any company announcement or meeting should be set up to allow remote staff to dial in, so they get the news at the same time as everyone else.
2. Allow, and encourage, employees to nominate and highlight their and their colleagues’ successes and contributions. Have a system which enables them to do this.
3. Ensure that all opportunities aren’t just publicized to everyone, remote and on site, but that it is clear they are open to everyone who wants to apply for them, no matter where they work.
4. The company should develop best practices for managing hybrid teams, formalize these in official training and make sure that all managers take that training.
Keeping track of progress (or lack thereof)
Companies should also monitor what impact working remotely has on their staff’s careers. Do women who work from home take longer to get promoted than men — or than women who work on site? And so on. Look at the data. If remote working is undoing gender-equality gains, the sooner you see that in the data, the sooner you can do something about it.
At PPRO, where over 40% of our team is female, learning and progression is a huge focus. We are always discussing how to best place and carry out processes and initiatives that promote and recognise staff members in ways that are adaptive to flexible working.
Making your voice heard
How can we as women ensure that our work is recognized even when we work apart from our colleagues? For starters, keep your manager informed about what you’re doing — and how it contributes to the team’s or the company’s success. Maintain open communication which can be via various channels that work for you and your manager for example; regular catch ups that are scheduled in the diary, sending brief messages regarding the week's accomplishments and challenges.
Make sure you record the hours you work. This is particularly important, as home working often leads to a blurring between work time and personal life. Make sure your company knows not just about your results, but the effort you put in to achieve them.
Finally, if a chance to work with teams beyond your normal role comes up, and if you are in a position to do so, grab it. This will help boost your profile within the company and ensure that you are not simply a name on a list or a ghost in the machine. And the kind of peer recognition that flows from this sort of opportunity strengthens your relationships within the company and reinforces how valuable you are.
Remote and hybrid working has the potential to be one of the most positive developments in the workplace in decades. But to realize that potential, we need to ensure that this shift doesn’t disadvantage women and other traditionally excluded groups in the workplace.
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