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The New Work-Life Balance: How Hybrid Work is Changing the Game for Women

Recent studies show that women feel much more positively about hybrid and remote working than men.

In recent years, the way we work has seen a seismic shift. The spotlight has been on remote and hybrid work models, and everyone seems to have an opinion on their productivity impact. But who's thriving in this new work landscape and who's not might just surprise you.

A fascinating study by the London School of Economics (LSE) revealed a curious gender divide when it comes to working from home. Women, it turns out, are big fans of the flexibility that hybrid work offers, seeing it as a boost to their productivity. Men, on the other hand, aren't as convinced.

This divide raises some intriguing questions about our work environments and what makes them tick. For instance, a US-based study saw a productivity jump of 8% among call-centre workers who shifted to remote work. But a large-scale study at Microsoft painted a different picture, suggesting that remote work could make our professional networks more insular, potentially denting productivity in the long run.

Europe's experience adds more shades to this complex picture, with some studies showing no change or even a dip in productivity as people moved from the office to their homes.

But here's where it gets really interesting: despite the mixed evidence on remote work's productivity, women are overwhelmingly positive about it. They're much more likely than men to say they're just as, if not more, productive at home. They're also more sceptical about the productivity of full-time office work, hinting at some deep-seated concerns about traditional work settings.

Despite these differing views on productivity, both men and women seem to agree on one thing: remote work could be a double-edged sword for career growth. A whopping 78% of respondents in a survey feared that remote work could harm their career trajectory, with no significant gender differences in these responses.

Research from China supports these fears, showing that while remote workers may be more productive, they're less likely to get promoted compared to their office-bound peers. A similar trend has been observed in the US, raising alarms about the potential career costs of remote work.

Adding another layer to this complex scenario is a study by Stanford, which found a disconnect between how employees and managers view productivity in remote settings. Employees felt more productive at home, while managers were more sceptical, a gap that could hinder career advancement for remote workers.

So, what makes people feel more productive at home? The lack of commute is a big one, saving time and reducing stress. Fewer interruptions and a better work-life balance also play crucial roles, as does the flexibility to set one's own hours. Interestingly, both men and women agree on these points, suggesting a common ground in what makes remote work appealing.

As we navigate this new work era, it's clear that remote and hybrid models offer both opportunities and challenges. For now, it seems that women are leading the charge in embracing the flexibility and potential of remote work, but the journey to a fully equitable and productive remote work culture is far from over.

The key will be finding ways to harness the benefits of flexibility while mitigating the potential downsides, especially when it comes to career progression.

If you have responsibility for managing and leading remote or hybrid colleagues, and would like to ensure a strong team dynamic by ensuring your style of leadership motivates and optimises the team's performance, take a look at our Core Skills session ‘Leading from Afar: Managing Remote or Virtual Teams’.

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