Our Managing Director Lindsay Dowden discusses the hybrid workforce and gender equality
As a result of this pandemic, things have changed – that much is undeniable. And the likelihood is, they will not revert. The phrase ‘new normal’ has been thrown around a lot this past year – and it is no more relevant than in the working world. As business leaders, we like to think that we can innovate and lead productivity and effectiveness; that we can evolve to meet the changing needs of the workforce. Well – now is our chance.
Across the world, it is estimated that 60% of the global workforce cannot work from home. The other 40% has adopted a new philosophy, where work is performed in a blended schedule of daily activities (BBC, 2020).
No longer strictly adhering to the regimented ‘9 to 5’ orthodox structure, the work of the 40% is now mixed in with family support, childcare, home schooling and wider life commitments. This new philosophy has become known as the ‘hybrid workforce’ – combining lifestyle and work together over the course of the working week, over no set hours.
Many people surveyed also suggested that they will not be prepared to go back to the old orthodox way of working, and I am sure we will see people asserting their desire to combine life and work together more regularly in the future as a condition of employment, with arrangements providing greater flexibility featuring more and more prominently.
DISPARITIES IN CAREER DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
What is most striking about this shift is that it gives companies around the world a real chance to address gender equality issues through new working arrangements – issues that have been markedly exacerbated by the challenge of the pandemic.
According to a study by McKinsey & Company in July last year, during the pandemic, women were 1.8 times more likely to lose their jobs than men (Vox, 2020). There are two primary causes for this disproportionate impact: firstly, women’s employment is concentrated in sectors that were strongly affected by lockdown and social distancing measures – for example, ‘contact-intensive’ sectors such as restaurants. Secondly, the shutting-down of schools and daycare centres massively increased childcare needs, and women have shouldered the brunt of this additional childcare.
Even outside of the context of the pandemic, we know that a major roadblock to women’s career development is the fact that they are much more likely to prioritise family responsibilities over careers, according to Pew Research Center data. A 2013 survey suggested that, among working parents of children younger than 18, mothers spent an average of 14.2 hours per week on housework, compared to the fathers’ 8.6 hours (Pew Research Center, 2013).
While a 2012 Pew Research Survey suggested that most Americans (79%) rejected the notion that women should return to their ‘traditional’ societal role, very few adults (16%) suggested that having a mother who works full-time is the ‘ideal situation’ for a young child (Pew Research Center, 2015). When asked about what’s best for women themselves, those surveyed offered similar results: just 12% of adults said that the ideal situation for women with young children is to work full-time. This data is clear: conceptions of traditional gender roles continue to propagate in the public subconscious, and our culture hampers the potential career development of women with families.
My hope is that society will recognise that with a hybrid workforce, the engrained assumptions on how familial responsibilities should be divided between men and women can be deconstructed. For men, the flexibility of the ‘distributed workplace’ affords more time to be spent on family roles.
This then means that women can work and combine in the same way, with those unpaid work responsibilities shared equally. This gives the chance for both sexes to have equal potential and opportunity in the workplace.
THE OPPORTUNITY FOR EQUALITY
At Modus, we are dedicated to making this opportunity a reality. We practice what we preach, with a workforce that is equally apportioned by gender. We are built on a foundation of workplace strategy and consultancy, meaning we are ideally placed to help transform your business to meet the needs of the hybrid workforce. Using our unparalleled experience in office fit out and workplace design and build, we can re-imagine and re-configure the office space to support this new working style – just check out our projects here.
In an inward-looking market sector, traditionally dominated by men, we will continue to stand out in our corner of our industry. Our philosophy is defined by equality, offering innovative ways to look at the future of the workplace, of office fit out, and spaces that are shaped by the hybrid workforce – the new normal.
Hopefully, we will come out of this trying time as a society that has abandoned the conception that women must bear the brunt of family responsibilities at the cost of their careers, and that has embraced the equality that hybrid working promises.
Get in touch with our team of experts here to find out more about how we can work together to create a future-proofed office space.