OPINION

Assessing the effects of COVID on work and gender equality

Assessing the effects of COVID on work and gender equality

The impacts of the pandemic on both paid and domestic work were extensive.

Some of these impacts will be long-lasting, and whether they will contribute to progressing gender equality is uncertain.

During the pandemic, Associate Professor Linda Colley and I surveyed Australian Public Service employees who worked from home.

We found that both men and women were better able to reconcile work and caring responsibilities.

Other research reinforces these findings, but also shows that women still undertook more domestic work than men.

Working from home has the potential to progress gender equality.

Of our respondents, slightly more women than men stated that they completed more complex work while working from home, which can aid career development.

Women who worked part-time increased their hours.

Part-time employees are often given lower priority work, so being available to work more hours may lead to being provided with more prestigious work, leading to career development.

Our main finding is that working from home works. More than 90 per cent of managers said that their team was just as productive, or more productive, while working from home.

Consequently, almost two-thirds of managers are more supportive of employees working from home in the future.

Globally, we are seeing a push for working from home to continue.

It seems that working some days a week at home, and some in the usual workplace - hybrid working - may become the new normal.

Hybrid working, however, may also have a downside.

Early market research shows that men are keener to return to their pre-pandemic workplace than women.

This means that men will be more visible in the workplace, whilst numbers of women continue to work from home.

Being visible in the office leads to networking opportunities and being provided with plum projects which can advance careers.

Conversely, those who are less visible and working from home may miss out on opportunities.

It is important for managers to be aware of the downsides of hybrid working as we emerge from the pandemic.

Hybrid working may be here to stay, but we mustn't let it become another way to entrench workplace gender inequalities.

Dr Sue Williamson is a senior lecturer in human resource management at UNSW Canberra. She will be considering working from home and the future of work at UNSW Canberra's online seminar The Great Office Exodus on March 24. To register for this free online event visit: https://bit.ly/3qRBFwJ

This story Assessing the effects of COVID on work and gender equality first appeared on The Canberra Times.