Hybrid working should benefit men and women
No question. Presenting this as a “mummy perk” is part of the problem.
The pandemic was a hands-on experiment to test drive remote and digital working. Despite the huge pressures brought about by COVID conditions, lockdowns, and homeschooling the results were positive. It became obvious that organisations could be fully functioning and successful when they embrace technologies that facilitate remote work and change their leadership approach. This has led to strong campaigns to extend the new working structure.
Senior leaders (mainly male) tried to resist these initiatives and CEOs talked about “jobland” and “careerland. ” This suggests that those who were looking for remote working were effectively killing their careers. With the way businesses are currently managed, proximity bias is real and it is indeed a case of out of sight, out of mind. This is a familiar concept to many women where flex work has previously been considered the “mummy” track to the career cemetery. But we are starting to see a shift.
A global Future Forum Pulse survey of 10,000 found that that people of colour, women, and “working mothers” are opting into flexible work arrangements at higher rates than their peers. 58% of women, compared to 48% of men, said they want to work digitally, at home or elsewhere, three to five days a week. This is almost half and a stat that should not be ignored.
For parents, the gender gap was higher. 92% of mothers and 80% of working dads want location flexibility for at least part of the week
Men who look for flexibility, that is pushing against gender stereotypes of this male-coded culture have hitherto been discouraged by bosses and peers with an unspoken threat that their “careers “ will suffer. A pass to a school concert is considered cute, but a pattern of work is usually vetoed. That would be a hell-no.
The State of the World’s Fathers Report indicates that 85% of fathers say they want to spend more time with their families. The notion of men as “breadwinners” is shifting and the expectation of being a “good provider” is no longer synonymous with being a good father or husband. Those men who actively look for remote work are more likely to have higher levels of engagement with their kids. Post pandemic this has risen to over 90% of men wanting more meaningful relationships with their kids.
Yet we still present the approach to a new way of working as a “benefit” to support working mothers and you all know how much I hate that term. In so doing, we are implying that caretaking and parenting is a female responsibility. In turn, this endorses the very presence-based sacrifice culture we are trying to avoid as a male place where those who choose to go to the office work long hours to (maybe) reap the rewards at some later date. It is not changing the system.
Worth a read: Paternity leave closes the gender pay gap
Not a “mummy” perk
This approach is part of the problem and embeds stereotypes further. Senior commentators offer workarounds for women to beat the system such as being more intentional and proactive in their careers. Women should be doing this anyway. Yet to reach gender balance we need as many men at home as women in the office. To quote Sheryl Sandberg:
We cannot get to an equal world without men leaning in at home – and those who do have stronger marriages and healthier, happier, more successful children. If you’re a manager or leader, think about what you can do to make work work for parents.”
So, I was delighted to read that a hair braiding class for dads in the U.K. was oversubscribed!
What we need from organisations
It is clear that hybrid working should benefit men and women
🎯Flex and remote should become a BASIC and central principle of how a company operates, not a “mummy” perk
🎯Work is no longer a place we go to every day, wasting hours on a commute, polluting the planet, and spending fortunes on fares or petrol. Work will be about a set of relationships that can be managed by agreement at any time, anywhere, to achieve assigned goals.
🎯Running distributed teams should be a core competence and supervisors, managers, and senior leaders should be trained accordingly. This is currently happening but only in a limited way. This is critical because the office will become the domain of of the young, white and childless, or those without outside commitments.
Leaders will have to manage age bias which is already on the way to becoming the main barrier to workplace inclusion.
Make sure your organisation supports gender balance by using our workshop on Managing Unconscious Bias