Editorial – Going back to the office… or going backwards?
Vaccinations are well underway and plans to reopen are finally on the table: a return to a somewhat normal life is imminent! While most of us won’t need to be asked twice to visit with family and friends or venture beyond the limits of our neighbourhoods, what about the return to the office?
After more than a year of working from home, the idea of jumping back into the daily sprint (subway-workday-rest-repeat!) seems about as pleasant as a COVID-19 test.
According to one American study, the more time that passes, the less that women want to return to in-person work. It reports that an equal number of men and women (24%) favour a hybrid formula between home and office in a post-pandemic world. However, men plan to go in to work 3 to 4 days per week, while women would only go in 2 to 3 days per week.
Note the gender gap.
Now imagine what our professional milieus would look like if this scenario became reality…
According to economist and Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom, the gap that already exists between men and women could widen over the years. Why is this? Because the people showing up at work the most often will be favoured for promotions – in part because they’ll be “seen” by their supervisors and will exert greater influence. Performance has nothing to do with it; it’s a matter of perception. Even though remote workers are generally more productive than the rest, 64% of managers believe the opposite and are likely to give bigger raises to people they cross paths with at the office. This bias will impact women’s careers and finances, even more so for mothers.
In early 2021, during The A Effect web conference Du doute au courage, comment gérer sa carrière en ces temps incertains, Isabelle Hudon highlighted the responsibility leaders hold with regard to this bias: “Leaders will need to be extremely sensitive to this unconscious bias, to keep these disparities from growing worse.”
Sophie Brochu also called on women to reinvest in the place of influence that is the office: “We mustn’t fall into the trap of self-exclusion from our own futures.”
Do you see the red flag?
Emerging from this crisis, the workplace will have changed. Now more than ever, women – and many men too! – feel the need to preserve their newly gained flexibility and autonomy. However, we can’t let the many (real!) benefits of work from home backfire… and force us all into going in reverse. Let’s reopen, but let’s do this equitably.
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