As every TV journalist knows, working from home brings its own special challenges, but a recent study of public servants has shown women in particular see themselves as winners from more flexibility about work locations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study by CQUniversity work and employment researcher Linda Colley (in collaboration with Dr Sue Williamson, UNSW Canberra and the CPSU) surveyed 6000 employees and managers to understand staff management and employee experiences during COVID-19.
It seems that flexbility with work location might be even more important than flexibility with hours.
Results showed almost two-thirds of employees believed they were more productive working from home during the pandemic, which Associate Professor Colley acknowledged was a positive outcome for working parents.
‘This was particularly the case for women with children aged from 5-17 years old, which is a surprising result and contrary to emerging research,’ said Associate Professor Colley.
‘Around one-sixth of respondents also told us that working from home enabled them to increase their part-time hours.
‘This may indicate that working from home might lessen the need for women to work part-time just to manage their work and caring responsibilities,’ she said.
Women more adaptable
Researchers found that women adapted more easily to working from home than their male counterparts.
‘More men than women told us they were less able to undertake the relational aspects of their job such as networking, mentoring others, and maintaining professional networks.
‘This might indicate men are not as good at reaching out when working from home,’ said Associate Professor Colley.
This is also supported by findings showing female managers were more likely to hold additional meetings (62% women, 57% men) or to hold social meetings (39% women, 30% men) with their teams during the pandemic.
Associate Professor Colley said that the pandemic has begun to change the traditional working models and expectations of businesses across Australia.
‘The nature of flexible working is changing before our very eyes. For decades, the focus has been primarily on flexible working hours – now it seems location is just as important – if not more so.
‘Organisational policies may be lagging behind practices, but managerial resistance has been overcome with some managers were implementing working from home policies that will accommodate families..
While there’s still room for improvement, Associate Professor Colley said the personal benefits, including less commuting time, more time with family and for caring responsibilities were significant for families.
‘If working from home is going to be the ‘new normal’ for some families, better infrastructure, an increased focus on workplace health and safety (particularly regarding long working hours) and an improved focus on maintaining relationships and professional networks is required’, she said.