Rigid work hours and lack of flexibility have been among the many factors that made it difficult for women to be a part of the workforce.
Historically, with the way societal norms around gender roles and responsibilities have shaped our perceptions, women usually get the responsibility of taking care of domestic tasks like caring for children and the household. In fact, even with these beliefs slowly changing, women still feel that domestic caregiving is more of their responsibility than their male counterparts.
Whether this is a good thing or not is another story, but the fact that many working women now have the chance to work remotely means that they can juggle their societal roles better – as employees, and as caregivers around the house.
Everything comes with its challenges, but there are plenty of ways women can make the most of working from home.
The Benefits of WFH for Women
Research shows that women are much more likely to prefer working remotely than men. Particularly with knowledge workers, where a large chunk – if not all – of their work can be carried out regardless of location, women are 62% more likely to consider remote work a perk of their job. In fact, 50% of women say that their home is the place they’d consider themselves to be most productive while working.
In fact, women are also more likely to have to quit their job because of the lack of flexibility. Clearly, working from home proves to be a perceived advantage. And it does have quite a lot of perks to offer – especially for working women who also have the responsibility of childcare and other such domestic tasks on their shoulders.
Let’s consider some of the benefits of remote work for women.
Reduced Bias Around Appearance
There are plenty of societal biases prevalent in society regarding women, particularly around looks. From age, ethnicity, and weight – even hair! These features play a part in how candidates are assessed as potential members of the workplace, as well as how fast they advance in their careers in comparison to their male counterparts.
With remote work, since the only comparison to be made is how well the work is carried out, the interactions become limited. As a result, these unnecessary biases around appearances can be reduced, and women can expect better opportunities regarding their careers.
Opportunities for Better Payment
Historically, there has been a noticeable – and significant – gap in the wages received by men vs. those received by women for the same task. With in-office jobs, there are geographical boundaries that prevent women from finding better opportunities. Commuting is already very expensive, and jobs that are in locations much further away from home stop being expensive and become all-out impossible.
With remote work, these boundaries get removed, as more and more opportunities become accessible. You could get a better-paying job in another city or state, and even a whole other country! This way, remote work can help women stand on equal footing with men.
It is an unfortunate reality that patriarchal society dictates certain norms that make it difficult for women to be heard in the workplace. Particularly, many work cultures promote aggressive communication, and this clashes with the socialization many women receive around being polite and soft-spoken and hearing others out.
Regardless of whether or not any of this is a good thing, remote work does give women the opportunity to communicate better. In virtual settings, aggressive communication styles do not have much room, and everyone gets an equal opportunity to have their voice heard.
Flexible Personal Schedule
Even before the pandemic hit, many women had been working what is called ‘the second shift’ – in that, they come home from work, only to have more work, albeit this time they are focused on domestic tasks.
Now, with working from home being an option that women are being given, women have the flexibility to arrange their schedule in accordance with all the tasks they have to take on – from office work to housework.
Working from home, therefore, becomes an excellent solution for women who have kids to care for, in-laws to appease, and even – putting aside all the conversation around the topic – husbands who just want a nice meal on the table at the end of the day.
In the past, there had been issues with prejudice; many remote workers, men and women alike, felt that their coworkers did not believe they were doing as much as those who came into the office.
However, with WFH slowly becoming the new normal – or at least part of it – there is no reason for this to be a concern.
Adjusting to WFH
Truthfully, while remote work has its benefits, adjusting to a home office can be a bit of a struggle. It is difficult for many workers, especially women, to find the right balance between work and personal life. It is also difficult to find the right work environment.
A large majority of people who have been working in-office all their lives will not have any kind of home office setup – particularly not an ergonomic one.
In fact, a significant number of Americans who moved to WFH during the pandemic reported that they worked from their beds. If not our beds, many of us would find any old place – from the living room to the dinner table.
While this works for a short while, particularly if the work that has to be done does not require long hours at the computer, it is not a long-term solution.
For women who are moving to permanently working from home, a proper ergonomic workstation becomes necessary. Without this, they are at risk of musculoskeletal disorders stemming from bad posture and strain.
Ergonomic furniture is a solution to this problem. While you can’t move a desk around every day, you can move your chair. Whether you’re sitting in your bedroom or the living room to keep an eye on your kids, you can be sure that your workspace ergonomics are in place.
Computer, Connection, and Software
At home, our connections and devices are set up with personal use in mind. If you suddenly have to use these for office work, you may end up having trouble. For example, your computer may be too slow to run complex software, or your internet connection may be too slow for virtual meetings.
In either case, the issue should be brought up to employers to find a solution. Most employers will take on the costs associated with new connections or equipment, provided that it is for work purposes.
On that note, you should also make sure your employer provides you access to any software you need for your work. It may also help to have any other tools that can make your virtual workplace easier to manage.
Establish Boundaries Between Work & Personal Life
A problem many women suffer from is that their work-life balance gets disrupted while working from home. Since women are ‘at home’, their families don’t consider them to be working, in the same way, they would have if they were at the office.
By establishing boundaries and making sure family members know that you are not to be disturbed during work hours, you can get a lot more work done more efficiently, without distractions.
Since flexible schedules are a major advantage of remote work, you can make your schedule such that you have enough time dedicated to your office work, while also making sure you take breaks and give time to all your other responsibilities and obligations.
By drawing clear lines between ‘work hours’ and ‘home hours’ you can get the most out of working from home as a woman.