Capturing the workforce’s lost 50%
Bridging the divide
I’ve been an online gamer for many years. It’s an open, inclusive environment where like-minded people can communicate regardless location, profession, physical mobility, or gender etc.
Through gaming technology, we’re connecting with each other on an equal footing, and I’ve formed friendships that would otherwise have been impossible, given the thousands of miles and life experiences that separate us.
In some ways, this brings me back to my previous blog on the benefits of remote and hybrid working for women experiencing menopause. And how over the past two years, through technology, we’ve been able to discover the benefits of remote work.
The unfortunate trigger for this was of course, Covid-19, which has caused tragedy and financial difficulty for so many. The ability to work from almost anywhere depending on profession/job role, has perhaps been a rare positive development.
In difficult times, it’s supported more flexible working and benefited employers too. They have learnt that staff can be trusted to work unsupervised, as productivity has held steady and in many cases, people have worked harder and for longer.
It’s also extended companies’ recruitment options, enabling them to hire the right people for each role, regardless of location, and I believe it could be the starting point for recapturing more of our lost workforce.
At the same time, hybrid work has changed working patterns, especially for women with children. Research by Equate Scotland found 65% thought their working patterns had changed since Covid-19, with many working longer hours or finishing work later, mainly to accommodate home schooling and childcare responsibilities.
Two steps forward…
Yet as many of us start to spend more time back in our physical work environments and restrictions come to an end, I wonder what the impact will be on women in particular, many of whom combine work with caring duties. And I fear that we could once again shed some of that ‘lost 50%’ of the workforce that we’ve only recently started to gain.
My hope and expectations are that the many advantages gained won’t be lost and that we don’t take ‘two steps forward, one step back’ by compelling people to return to the office full time.
For me, the answer lies in managers continuing to empower a wider workforce to help maintain previously untapped skills. These might be lost if we revert to the status quo, regardless of whether the job can be completed remotely.
Think for example, of all the highly qualified women who over the years, have opted for ‘default’ careers close to home: the local bank, school or shop. While those are all valuable job choices and ideal for many, for others they may have been the only viable option.
The next step
I think employers and us as managers therefore need to go one step further than the rapid transformation that occurred during Covid-19. We can do this by maintaining the momentum of remote and hybrid working, while also changing our mindset, from making hiring decisions based on proximity to the office and creating a long-term work revolution that benefits everyone and taps fully into female talent.
This will of course, involve providing appropriate technology for each job and offering ongoing training and skills development to all workers. It also requires managers to change our thinking. This should include helping build women’s professional confidence, empowering them to join skilled professions regardless of head office location.
There will of course, always be workers based in physical locations, and I think we all understand the value of shop workers, couriers, carers, cleaners, teachers, clinicians, etc.
But for the rest of us, hybrid and remote work enables dormant skills to be harnessed and nurtured, irrespective of age, gender, physical ability or background.
And that is possibly the greatest equaliser of all.