Working from home for most women balancing family and careers can seem like walking a tightrope. So many things need their attention, from seeing to their child’s needs to reverting to a co-worker’s messages.
And while women are known to multitask better than their male counterpart, it doesn’t mean that they like defaulting to it! Given the expectation to finish everything on your personal and professional schedule, women end up feeling drained. You log out, only to welcome a whole new list of tasks at the kitchen and entire household. Sometimes the life of a woman working from home can seem like an endless spinning wheel.
The 2020 Mercer survey conducted across 54 countries and 1000+ companies reveals that despite being 50% of the workforce, many women tend to step back in the leadership ladder.
While both men and women get to enjoy full-time remote jobs, the criteria for appraisals vary.
Given that March has a day dedicated to celebrating women, I thought it is time to explore the top 5 challenges of women in the virtual work world and understand their plight a bit better.
Challenge #1: Work Overload
The workday was a ritual; you finish all the chores early and set out to work. With the paradigm shift, you know you are not leaving the house; the lines between personal and professional lives get blurred. Official duties and household responsibilities get staggered over the day. Because of this, you feel a sense of perpetual work and stress. All of it is summing up to a feeling of being underpaid and overutilized.
Solution: have a structured day and categorize your remote work from personal to professional. Do not let chores spillover work hours and vice-versa.
Challenge #2: Multiple Interruptions and distractions
Working women find it difficult to find a work-life balance while working from home. There are performance benchmarks at work and tantrums and expectations at the personal front. When this continues for a longer period they are stretched thinly. Constant clashing priorities lead to missed deadlines and delays. Concurrently co-workers are trying to bond, there are emails to be answered, and a gazillion alerts keep beeping on your phone. Being messaged relentlessly to check on status can make you lose focus and delay work.
- Learn to set boundaries.
- Set a time and space as a home office.
- Set a discipline at home to show that you are in your job space.
- Be gentle, clear, and insistent in conveying to your children and spouse what are acceptable times or situations that they can interrupt you when you are working.
- Inform your coworkers and manager if there is a personal emergency or errand that needs your immediate attention.
- Create a support network by making the family understand and interrupt only when necessary.
Challenge #3: Social isolation and Networking Issues
Staying relevant and keeping up with industry trends is one of the crucial factors in any business. Social gatherings, virtual meet ups and professional networking on dedicated platforms are increasingly replacing floor events. Many women struggle with a booked calendar and find they don’t have enough time to explore these platforms, thereby leading to a drop in their visibility and contribution in such communities.
From satisfying the care-giving aspects to meeting professional expectations, a working woman’s schedule tends to be overloaded. Also, most long trade shows and industry-related seminars or events either clash with the work- hours or during personal bonding times. A working woman ends up foregoing or limiting their exposure to such events which can lead to them drifting apart from their network and staying out of touch longer than their male colleagues.
Solution: To foster professional networking you can install & use a calendaring app on your devices. The alerts and reminders help you plan your schedule better. Parallelly, being deliberate in joining relevant forums can add value and benefit by connecting with the crowd. Look for digital platforms to connect- social media platforms like Linkedin and related professional forums to bond with the industry leaders. Contributing your time to relevant forums can still keep the limelight on!
Challenge# 4 Communication barrier
While our technology can handle the transfer of information, the question of “What exactly was conveyed of that message?” remains. While talking to a person face-to-face, there are non-verbal communications, social cues, and expressions, which is easier to stay aligned. While virtually connecting via emails, chats, phone calls, or even video calls removes the nuances from how we communicate. There are often distractions and poor listening experiences. Collaboration between teams and the synergy of the employees gets affected.
Solution: Weekly video calls on efficient tools like Slack, Skype, or Zoom combined with open, transparent communication help set things in order. But it calls for an extra effort to make it work.
Challenge #5: Appraisals, Pay Cuts, and Job Loss
A survey reveals that 24% of women are likely to permanently lose their job as collateral damage of the coronavirus pandemic. Many managers fail to set clear tracking metrics and consider the number of hours spent watching the screen. Parallelly, women feel siloed as there is a lack of monetary motivation that could lead to lower morale. According to a recent study, in the year 2020, women make only $0.81 for every dollar that a man makes. Despite having social laws for pay equality, many organizations tend to stereotype, which leads to biased appraisals.
Solution: Key Performance Indicators (KPI) or The parameters to measure success need to be clearly defined and communicated. Right from the early days of joining, leaders need to outline the constituents of success and draw a roadmap for the employees to work for it irrespective of gender.
Women are judged on a harsher scale than men, be it at work, or at home. Working mothers, in particular, are judged for having a career. While this is more prevalent in certain cultures, the reality is that women are expected to be all-rounders and when they don’t, society and communities are quick to fault-find.
The shift in perception starts with us, right here. Cultivating a healthy work culture is the first step to providing your workforce with the tools to succeed. A positive work environment supports, motivates and nurtures remote workers , regardless of the gender one identifies as.
My advice to those women who work remotely is to not be too hard on yourself. Avoid setting impossible standards for yourself and those around you. Celebrate who you are; and stand for equality in performance, appreciation and professional conduct.
Relating to the challenges here? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and let us know what helped you combat the challenges you faced when working remotely!