Many women have gone through a significant life experience throughout Covid-19. Post the pandemic the support required for women into the future will determine the level of retention of high performing women across industries.
The pandemic has impacted many of us in different ways, each of us has a very personal story with meaningful impact. For some, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to be with family and a reappropriation of time that would have been spent travelling to work. This reappropriation of time has opened a world of opportunity and work life balance. There are many that have had to battle through the various stages of the pandemic to provide services to others and keep society functioning one of the most extraordinary eras in history!
Whilst in some situations there has been balanced family support, during this period women have experienced many scenarios, either at home enabling the family to function whilst working on endless zoom calls, juggling home schooling and supporting on the front line against covid-19. For the fortunate there is a strong partner and family, friend network for others they have battled the pandemic period alone. There is a plenitude of stories.
So what do we need to know?
Working from home during Covid-19 provided some women lots of flexibility. Given that business outcomes were still attained for many organisations, there is a long-term shift in the requirement to move back to office centred working when many businesses ran for 18 months with a predominantly home-based model.
For others, juggling home and family was tough through in many cases schools have reopened, returning flexibility to all with families working from home.
For women living on their own ensuring a social network is essential. Support networks have morphed during the pandemic and as a result physically being present at work can be seen as less of a social benefit post the pandemic. These networks are now seen as longer-term support networks enabling locally centred work life approach.
Many women continue to organise work around life rather than life around work as they have adapted their life strategy whilst Covid-19 was at its height. Of course, there are many other scenarios.
Top tips for organisations supporting female leaders post the pandemic:
- Ensure there is board level commitment to a clear approach office-based work. If you are changing from a work at home arrangement, be clear on the reason for the shift together with the long-term balance. Given many organisations have worked well remotely, be clear on the rationale for any changes to circumstances and communicate well in advance.
- Reinforce the importance for line management to have in depth conversations to understand individual concerns and requirements on working arrangements as a routine business conversation. Discuss preferred working arrangements together with where and how there is a mutually suitable work plan. Each person has specific requirements that need to be considered in balance with the business imperative.
- Put in place clear programmes of support in terms of well-being, appropriate flexibility and remain clear on business imperatives.
- Check that any colleague support networks are routinely available within the office (whether that be 5 days or a part-time arrangement).
- Ensure that you have regular checks with each member of staff to support a fair and equitable conversation with long-term commitment to the organisation.
Each work life support conversation is unique, unique to the person and the circumstance. To support women in a post pandemic world, the type of conversation that organisations are putting in place are encouraged to be an extension of current day-to-day conversation. Most importantly, seek to understand the situation in the first instance rather than communicating a pre-set view. With the right conversations and understanding organisations ensure that women as with all individuals within a neurodiverse team are supported and feel that support.
Dax Grant is a lead societal voice focused on business and functional leadership producing exceptional results through a purpose beyond profit-based approach. Dax is listed as a Top 100 Women to Watch, Global 100 CIO and 100 list Power speaker. An authority within Fortune and FTSE firms, including Visa Inc, HSBC and Barclays and Tech Start-ups, Dax sits on the Forbes Technology Council and remains a devoted philanthropist through the Grant Foundation. Further details: www.linkedin.com/in/daxgrant or visit: www.daxgrant.com