The world of work, including teleworking, is inevitably gendered. Under normal circumstances, teleworking might potentially disadvantage women, as they typically have to juggle between childcare, household chores and paid employment. But, on other hand, teleworking might also help them to facilitate their desired work-life balance. One prominent study found that female home-based teleworkers have slightly better work-life balance outcomes than their male counterparts. The ultimate effect of telework on the reported work-life balance of both women and men depends on many factors, including the established legal and regulatory framework, the prevailing gender division of labour, the organisational culture, policies and practices of their employer, among other factors.
Existing social and economic gender inequalities and challenges for women are aggravated by the current crisis, which demands that enterprises and other organisations become more gender responsive in their actions related to tackling the COVID-19 crisis. Women working on the frontlines in healthcare or essential items retail, or working from home with eldercare and childcare responsibilities need to be heard, and their voices and their challenges should inform future policymaking and HR policies regarding flexible working. Not to mention, the United Nation has specified that women’s employment is likely to be hit more severely by the pandemic induced economic crisis than men’s.
See also: One Secret to Close the New Gender Gap Issues at Workplace
Some of the critical areas enterprises might need to pay specific attention to are as follows:
- Whenever organisations collect data, including regarding the pandemic, it should be gender-disaggregated, in order to understand how different factors affect men and women differently. Such data should be used to raise awareness among senior leadership and managers, in order to ensure that they are aware of and understand the different impacts on women and men and implement response plans accordingly.
- Enterprises might be confronted with the profound challenges that women are facing regarding balancing their paid work and caring responsibilities during the pandemic. Performance appraisals shouldn’t prioritize only those workers for promotions who were able to continue working at full capacity during the pandemic or penalise those workers who could not do so because of personal challenges, such as homeschooling their children when public schools were closed.
- Employers need to demonstrate empathy and creativity in supporting female workers and workers with care responsibilities, to avoid leaving them with no other option than to cut back their working hours or quit their jobs entirely, thus increasing the risks of women falling behind in their careers.
- Employers have a role to play in raising awareness of domestic violence, offering support and assistance to potential victims, as well as empowering all workers to look out for each other and detect early warning signs that something might point to incidences of abuse or violence at the home of one of their coworkers. Organisations should share information with workers on where to report and seek help to combat domestic violence, including national and local hotlines and services with trained responders, by using special code-words that victims can use to signal abuse and thus trigger responses by the competent authorities, in line with the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190) and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 206).
- Employers should continue promoting family-friendly policies and measures, with a particular focus on encouraging men to equally share the responsibilities of unpaid care and domestic chores by means of targeted employee engagement and creative initiatives, such as role modelling of good practices by male managers, social-media campaigns, internal blogs or photos, videos, etc. It is important that the new working arrangements offer both women and men equal opportunities to telework and viable options to overcome work-life conflict.
- One of the important aspects to consider is that the full-time, continuing teleworking that has been imposed by physical distancing rules and lockdowns should not become a significant setback for previous gender equality achievements, and not hamper the diversity and inclusion efforts of enterprises.
- Finally, it is essential to include women and the gender dimension in COVID-19 responses and task forces.
Read also: 4 Talent Acquisition Challenges and Opportunities in 2021
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