Working from home is great but it’s not for everyone
Emma Duke, Staff Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic had many impacts, and challenged norms around life, home and work. One of the enduring effects was the shift experienced by employees from working solely in an office, to working remotely, or in a hybrid format. In fact, Made in CA says that 30 per cent of Canada’s workforce was remote between April 2020 and June 2021 but the risks versus rewards for women seem to be higher than other groups.
The ability to work remotely was considered beneficial for both employers and employees. Canadians report higher levels of productivity working from home rather than in-office – clearly a bonus for employers. Employees aren’t complaining either. Between avoiding transit, being able to stay in the comfort of their own homes, feeling more productive, and having more flexibility, remote-work isn’t so bad for them, either. Statistics Canada found that nearly half of teleworkers say they would prefer to work half their hours remotely, and almost 40 per cent say they would rather work remotely almost all of the time.
Working from home has its benefits, but it does not go without drawbacks, either.
At the Working From Home – Risks & Rewards event hosted by Mount Royal University for International Women’s Day, Dr. Heejung Chung outlined why working from home can be a double-edged sword.
Dr. Chung studies flexible working, including hybrid and remote work and is the author of The Flexibility Paradox, which looks at why flexible working leads to (self) – exploitation. She says that on one hand, flexible working has enabled people to manage both work and family; women in particular are less likely to drop out of the workforce if they are offered a flexible working option. This is just one example of how remote working has opened doors for diversity and inclusion, according to Terminal.
But on the other hand, hybrid or remote methods also mean particular risks for women and other marginalized groups.
One negative outcome, Chung says, is that traditional gender norms come into play. When women are afforded flexible working, they end up taking on an unequal share of labour, because they work and take care of their children – sometimes at the same time.
Dr. Chung found that women end up working harder and longer with flexible working, because they can, and also because their hours of productivity have decreased. They get distracted by their children and other responsibilities. A Statistics Canada report backs her up; it highlights that close to 20 per cent of workers say that a barrier to their productivity in working from home was having to care for a child or family member.
What is a privilege for some — high internet speed, having an adequate work space, and being able to access work-related devices and information, do not come so easily to others, and according to Statistics Canada, are reported as barriers to productivity. Class disparities leave some employees without the technology, workspace, or internet access necessary in order to succeed.
Working from home is a double-edged sword. There is no question that it has its benefits, and it seems to be the preferred method of work for many. However, it does not come without its drawbacks, particularly for marginalized groups.
As companies continue to implement new flexible working methods and routines, they will also need to take into account that not everyone has the same experience working from home. If you are offered a work-from-home or flexible working position, consider weighing the rewards versus the risks to determine if the position suits you best.