By Nadeya Hussain –
It has been over a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak and a similar amount of time since the first lockdown forced most people to start working from home.
Since then, lifestyles have been affected dramatically.
Areas such as education, outings, habits, and many jobs have all been irreversibly changed by the events of the pandemic.
The switch from working in offices and travelling for meetings, to online conference calls and personal at-home offices has been a big change for many.
Beyond the innate difficulty of such a drastic change in the status quo, This shift in lifestyle of working at home instead of in offices has also sparked a debate concerning gender inequality.
According to analysis conducted by The Guardian, it’s been found that “Men are more likely to be in the office after the pandemic while women become less visible to employers.”
The Guardian reports that traditionally, more women are taking up responsibilities within the home (such as chores and childcare) and are therefore requesting more flexible working hours.
Despite this, women are still putting as much into their work as any male colleague, but because they are working at home rather than at the office, their commitment is less likely to be recognised and praised.
One of the interviews in The Guardian stated, “Those at home will look like they’re less committed to their job, they won’t have as a good a relationship with their manager, the person that can promote them and give them a pay rise.”
This raises the question of whether or not working at home is actually the way forward when there are such potential negatives.
As vaccines continue to roll out across the UK and around the world, questions and debates are now ongoing and many employers are discussing whether or not employees should come back to the office full time, or whether there are ways to be more flexible.
One thing The Guardian touches on is the struggle of women juggling work and home responsibilities. It is unfair to not acknowledge their hard work, particularly during the rough 15 months of the pandemic.
Mothers have felt the negative impact of working from home as they had to take on domestic and childcaring duties more than their male partners, whilst men can focus on other priorities.
Because of the closure of schools, dual-earner mothers have had to carry the double strain of home-schooling duties.
Although men will likely help out, Harvard Business Review noted that: “A recurring finding is that women are more likely to carry out more domestic responsibilities.”
Of course, a simple solution would be for men to take up more roles within the home to help remove the burden off of their partners.
Committing to the Job?
Manager of UN Women’s flagship report, Laura Turquet reacted to the findings on Twitter, saying: “Work from home is NOT an automatic win for gender equality. With no shift in unpaid care responsibilities or workplace cultures, it’ll be women at home doing both & men in offices getting ‘face-time’ needed for promotions & pay rises.”
The issue highlighted here is that working from home will not create gender equality but instead continue to facilitate it.
Although employers have suggested that they will be carefully monitoring their new working policies to make sure women are not disregarded, the question remains on how long will this last?
If people either need or choose to work remotely, will they be viewed as less committed? Many implications can occur, which eventually can lead back to inequality.
On the condition of anonymity, I asked a few women who have been working at home on their perception of this issue.
One worker and mother said: “I personally don’t enjoy working at home, work is my escape from my hectic life of a housewife.
“I do feel like when working at home I have to priorities my kids more compared to my partner. As for work, I think women are underestimated in general.”
Another mentioned that while the thought of working from home might initially sound enticing, responsibilities can build up quick.
She said: “I personally would prefer working in offices so I can build my position where management can track my progress.”
There’s been a lot of talks recently about adopting a new ‘hybrid’ method of working, mixing and blending in-office and remote working as needed. However, it is only fair for both partners to take upon domestic duties to achieve equity between both genders. This will allow an equal balance of work and home duties between both partners and shape expectations of the future workplace.
Do you believe that gender inequality is reinforced through remote working?