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Is work what we do or where we go?

A typical working day for the vast majority of us has changed significantly over the course of the past few months due to the effects of Covid-19, with many individuals having worked from home.

As we ease back into our new normal (whatever that may be!), we wanted to delve deeper to find out what you really think about remote working and if this should be an option to continue long term. 

Our survey found that 83% would like to continue working from home as opposed to solely working from the office, of which 42% said they would like to do a combination of both. Working from home has it’s benefits, particularly cutting down on travel time, productivity and having more flexibility, which overall leads to a better work life balance and for most this was highlighted in their comments. In terms of employer support, 20% said their employer would fully support their decision, a further 20% said they would support WFH on a part time basis, and 10% said their employer wouldn’t support WFH at all. 

10% also commented they would benefit from having improved IT support to enable them to work more efficiently from home. 

17% of those who took part in our survey said they couldn’t wait to get back to the office, with the main reason being they missed the social interaction, team ethos and face to face interaction. These were also reasons for those wanting to do a combination of both.  

Automotive 30% Club Founder Julia Muir shares her thoughts on this very relevant topic below.


Extract from “Change the Game: the Leader’s Route Map to a Gender-Balanced Business” by Julia Muir

The pandemic has shown us all how effectively we can work remotely. It makes no sense at all to return en masse to the workplace and back to an inefficient and out-dated working pattern that causes congestion, pollution, stress and childcare issues, and often forces some women or those with caring responsibilities out of the labour market.

In their April 2020 paper “The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality”, Alon, Doepke, Olmstead- Rumsey and Tertilt state that historically more men in the US were in jobs that could be done flexibly and remotely but chose not to, and fewer women were (due to being over represented in frontline caring, retail and hospitality roles), but more of them chose to work remotely when possible. This is likely to be because of the erroneous focus by bosses on presenteeism rather than productivity, and whilst we are all aware that being present gives the impression of working, most men have the luxury of being able to choose whether or not to be at the workplace and take advantage of impression management more often than most women can. The authors remain hopeful that the pandemic could lead to employers endorsing remote working so that more men will choose to work remotely in future, removing the career penalty it currently gives to women.

Change was already happening though even prior to the pandemic.

PwC found in their 2017 study “Winning the Fight For Female Talent” flexible work arrangements and a culture of work life balance was in the top 3 most important criteria for selecting a job for both men and women (along with competitive salary and career progression). So to attract the brightest talent, employers need to make flexible and remote working part of their employer brand, and those who select it must have the same pay or career prospects as others. Former Unilever Chair and CEO Niall FitzGerald addressed this during his tenure. “The principle is that every job can be operated in a flexible manner unless can be demonstrably proven otherwise”.

The employees of the 21 st century are very different in terms of gender, ethnicity, religion and family obligations, and the working model designed for the traditional default male with 20th Century lifestyle is no longer fit for purpose. If your organisation maintains outdated patterns, you will fail to attract talented people of both sexes who can’t thrive in that environment.

So through behavioural design, changing the default to remote and flexible working, and forcing an opt-out rather than an opt-in, more workers will take it up. If it’s no longer a woman’s issue, it shouldn’t lead to gender specific career penalties. Flexibility becomes the default. It becomes “pay for performance, not face time”.

Work must be repositioned to be what we do, not where we go. Remote or “hybrid” or “blended” working (combining some days in the office with some at home) will enable more women to access fulfilling careers.

People management processes that set clear work goals and quality standards, and assess achievement against them, will result in higher productivity because the employee knows exactly what needs to be done and can plan their schedule effectively. There are many digital systems available to make work tasks transparent to all team members, and to ensure effective communications, so their physical location becomes irrelevant.

As well as benefiting women and men, remote working has other advantages for the business. It saves money due to reduced energy usage, work-related travel, and IT and real estate costs. It can enable companies to secure skilled talent in less competitive and lower-cost locations, and could improve employment rates in less economically active areas. A London company could have a remote worker based in Liverpool. So, it’s not surprising that in a recent Gartner Group study, 74 percent of CFOs said they will make remote work a permanent part of their cost-management plans. It can save your employees money too; a study of 2,500 US knowledge workers conducted by Citrix and the Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that employees working remotely just two days per week would save over $107 billion largely based on reduced fuel costs and commuting fees.

Your employees are more productive and work equal or longer hours when working remotely. A Citrix-One-Poll of 10,000 global employees found that 69 percent of respondents report they are more focused and productive working from home, and 72 percent said they work the same or more hours as when in the office. This is due to the shorter distance from bed to desk, along with fewer interruptions from colleagues. If you’re afraid that a certain worker would be binge watching their favourite shows, then that worker is just as likely to be avoiding work in the office and distracting others while they do. They need to be performance managed out of the company in either situation.

Despite often working longer hours, remote workers have a healthier work-life balance, because they have the flexibility to manage their personal lives while working. Overall, remote workers say they are less stressed and can focus and get their work done faster.

Inclusive leaders can set a good example by adopting contemporary working patterns themselves, and encouraging their senior executive team to do the same. The new working norms that require productivity rather than presenteeism should be the default setting from now on and will help achieve a gender-balanced meritocracy in your business.


Article written by Victoria Trudgill, Campaign Manager, Automotive 30% Club

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