Hybrid working: Why more needs to be done to help women thrive

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Women in tech, media, and telecom industries have difficulty adjusting to hybrid work schedules, according to research from consultant Deloitte, which also suggests that women report low levels of motivation, higher feelings of stress and burnout, and poor work-life balance.

Deloitte’s analysis upholds the message in its title: For women in tech, media, and telecom, hybrid work may not be working

The analysis found that 51% of women in tech, media, and telecommunications work in a hybrid setting, while 39% work remotely. The same study concluded that women find it more challenging to work in a hybrid environment than to work fully remote or entirely in-person.

At the same time, just one-third of women in tech, media, and telecommunications said their productivity and motivation were good or extremely good at work, and only one-third are satisfied with their work-life balance. 

So, why are women in these industries unhappy with hybrid work when everyone else raves about it? 

Gillian Crossan, Deloitte’s global technology sector leader, says women aren’t fond of the unpredictable nature of hybrid working. She explains that it’s important for employees, particularly women, to receive precise schedules of when to show up to the office. 

Also: Microsoft: There’s a critical shortage of women in cybersecurity, and we need to do something about it

“Because part of the struggle with women feeling behind is if you don’t know when you have to be there for those important leadership interactions: your voice is not in the room, your brand starts to atrophy, and you do really need to be in the room for these conversations,” Crossan tells ZDNET. 

“Having a more planned schedule from leaders is absolutely critical in making sure that happens.”

Many companies with hybrid schedules prefer to set certain days for employees to go to the office, but don’t always make it clear when something critically important is happening. As a result, women in hybrid workplaces feel left out of important decisions and conversations in the office, especially when it’s unclear what days big meetings will happen. 

According to Deloitte’s Women at Work study, 52% of women working in hybrid settings experience exclusion from professional activities. “Whether it’s the predictability of ‘you have to come in every Tuesday and Thursday, and all our meetings will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays,’ just be very clear about when the important meetings are happening and when the leaders are going to be there,” says Crossan.

Predictability is an important factor for women, because women are disproportionately affected by childcare responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. In a hybrid work environment, where in-person days are at the employee’s discretion, it can be difficult for many women to arrange last-minute care cover. One solution, says Crossan, is that company leaders use scheduling tools to share with their employees exactly which days managers will be in the office.

Also: Making it count: What it is like to be a woman in tech

Crossan argues that companies should invest in on-site childcare for working women who need to be in the office but can’t find someone to look after their children on the day. She recalls when her daughter was younger, and her childcare plans fell through: on-site childcare at Deloitte made her feel at ease about her child’s whereabouts, so she could focus on her work. 

“There’s a lot of people operating without that family safety net, and I do think it’s really good for firms to invest in a subsidized backup childcare which bridges the gap between what you’ve organized and the reality of having a child with the sniffles who can’t go to daycare that day,” she says.

Many employees want to continue working from home sometimes, and as a result, companies are adopting hybrid working as the norm. But currently, some women are being left behind, meaning they are unable to reap the same benefits of hybrid work as their peers.

Companies must, therefore, understand that working from home does not absolve the issues working women face. Leaders need to get creative to keep talented workers – many of whom are also moms and full-time caregivers. 

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