Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Your condition does not define you, your strength and courage does! Multiple Sclerosis is different, it can affect your life in many ways but it cannot stop you from living your life the way you want.
Here is my article where I have tried to understand the science behind this condition and share some living realties of Multiple Sclerosis. Please do share your opinion and experiences in the comment section.

Read More : Click Here 

Read more

Father’s Day- Pulse Survey

Today, organizations are taking cognizance of not just the professional lifestages but also the personal life stages of its employees. While there is a deliberate impetus around challenges women face as they navigate motherhood and other personal phases including marriage, care giving, childcare etc., but today fathers too are stepping up when it comes to childcare and want to do their fair share. But many a times, all that stands in their way are all pervasive social attitudes and inadequate support/policies at the workplace.

With Father’s Day approaching, Marching Sheep has created a unique pulse survey exclusively for fathers, to understand their perspective on this topic and how organizations can support them navigate fatherhood and the parental responsibilities that come along.

Please take this short survey using the below link. The survey is anonymous and would take less than 2 minutes of yours. Help us gather inputs to help organizations create an equitable workplace for fathers because your opinion matters!

Read More : https://lnkd.in/dShnGzTJ

Read more

Creating a barrier free organization for the visually impaired

The journey of the visually impaired is rife with challenges, biases and barriers. The onus of enabling the visually impaired in the workforce lies with the employers. As responsible employers we need to consciously make efforts. My third article in this series, elaborates on some steps which can help create a barrier free organization and build an inclusive climate.

A survey conducted by the Danish Blind Society , shows that prejudice is a major reason why a large number of visually impaired people are unemployed. One major reason of unemployment is that public misconceptions affect the hiring managers’ perceptions of potential candidates who are visually impaired. And if a visually impaired person does work, the assumption is that it is probably in a volunteer job, and that there are never any expectations it might result in anything useful. But workplace prejudice might be even more crippling than disability, the survey shows.

Despite their desire to be a part of the labour market, be independent and live a life of dignity, people with visual impairments encounter a twin burden of attitudinal and access barriers, which inhibits their employment inclusion.

How organisations can improve inclusivity?

Prejudices towards the visually impaired workforce are not beyond repair. In addition to a lead-by-example role that managers can take, they can also become more inclusive by reaching out to groups that cater to the visually impaired to recruit for potential new hires. Hiring a visually impaired person for an internship not only gives them job experience but also will encourage others to be more open to considering a person who is visually impaired for a position in the future. If a company is serious about inclusion, then it is also very important that its website and job application portal be accessible.

Accessibility

People with  disability are as effective as sighted people, yet they experience exclusion at some level – both in finding jobs and in the workplace itself. An accessible workplace is quite necessary as it provides an environment in which the employees are able to perform their essential job function with all their potential regardless of their disability. Small modifications to the environment will do wonders for the people with disability to bring out the best in them. A workspace that can be easily navigated is a must.

Reasonable accommodation refers to the provision of conditions, equipment, and environment that enable an individual to effectively perform his or her job.  A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way a job is performed that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. There are three categories of reasonable accommodations:

·      Changes to a job application process;

·      Changes to the work environment, or to the way a job is usually done;

·      Changes that enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment (such as access to training).

Every organization must take an initiative to make their facilities inclusive to ensure safety and accessibility to all participants who are on wheelchair, visually impaired or using prosthetics. Accommodations will vary depending on the needs of the individual, but the ones listed below are examples of adjustments or modifications that are often requested by employees who are visually impaired:

Modification of an employment test: When applying for jobs, a potential applicant who is visually impaired should be able to request that elements of the application process that require sight be modified or made accessible.

Assistive technology: Assistive technology is one of the most important accommodations for employees who are visually impaired, allowing them to access computers and other systems in the workplace with ease. Popular examples of assistive technology include:

·      Scanners

·      Magnifiers

·      Digital recorders

·      Screen reading software

·      Refreshable braille displays

·      Braille embossers

·      Telephones with large print keypads and Braille Keypads

Accessible website: Employee portals, message boards and other sites should be accessible to workers without/low vision. If employees cannot access a website or online system that their job requires to use, they should be able to request that it be made accessible.

Guide dogs: Even in offices with no-pet policies, employees who use guide dogs should be able to request an exception to allow them to bring their dog to work.

Modified training: If the workplace is rolling out a new system or upgrading its computer programs, an all-staff training session may not cover keyboard commands or other details specific to assistive technology users. Employees who are visually impaired should be able to request individualized instruction to allow them to learn these systems properly.

Written materials: Employees with a visual impairment should feel comfortable requesting that all written materials required for their job be available in their preferred accessible format—whether that’s braille, large print or audio.

Provide Braille Signs: The addition of Braille lettering to signs and office equipment like the copy machine allows the employee to be self-sufficient for daily work tasks. Braille signs for various offices, washrooms, lifts etc., empowers people with visual disability to move around with minimal assistance.

 Provide Tactile Flooring: Tactile tiles  are raised tiles with specific patterns used for providing assistance in navigation for people who are visually impaired. This could be included while designing the flooring of a building during construction.

Flexible schedule: Public transportation or other transit services often dictate commuting schedules for people who are visually impaired. Employees should be able to request modified work schedules allowing them to work the requisite number of hours by staying late or coming in early without facing discipline for tardiness caused by transportation.

Work from home: As long as it doesn’t interfere with productivity, employees who are visually impaired or visually impaired should be able to request a work from home arrangement when their disability makes it difficult for them to travel to the office.

Time off: From time to time, employees who are visually impaired may need to take extended time off either for medical treatment or programs related to their disability (e.g. guide dog training). They should be able to request unpaid time off for these events, even if they don’t have the accrued time to accommodate it.

Transportation and assistance costs: If transportation or assistance is required for a visually impaired employee to perform the essential functions of their job, they should be able to ask for a driver or reimbursement for the cost of transportation/services. These should be integrated into the overall travel policy.

Meeting management: Make sure that every individual introduces him/ herself in a meeting so that a person with a visual disability will get to know who is in the attendance and where exactly each and every person is sitting. If someone has to leave the room mid-meeting, acknowledge this with a brief mention so that everybody understands who is still present.

Sensitisation: Train managers, team peers and other employees on best practices for approaching their co-workers with visual impairment. It’s important that employees realize the disability does not define their co-worker. Their co-worker was hired on the merits of his/her skills, so there should be no question of their ability to perform the assigned job.

Increasing chances of getting hired

The reality is that we live in a sighted world, and stereotypes pervade the workplace. People without sight should bring their adaptive equipment along to interviews to demonstrate how they would complete required tasks to give the hiring manager the insight he needs to make a decision.

Visually impaired job applicants should network in their community and get to know people in their line of work. When they know of a visually impaired person doing a job similar to the one they are applying for, they should get advice from him and obtain a reference if possible. Telling a hiring manager about another visually impaired person in a similar role can help land the job.

It’s always best to ask a new employee for help with any necessary accommodations. It will help understand their needs better and make them feel welcomed by the organization. Finally, no one should hesitate to call out if he or she believes discrimination took place.

Educating ourselves on the truth about disabilities is the best way to eliminate outdated stereotypes. It will take time to change the collective consciousness of society and root out wrongful discrimination against people with disabilities. However, people can help by educating themselves about issues facing visually impaired people today, discouraging outdated stereotypes, and working to encourage inclusivity in their workplaces.

Read more

Visual Impairment- Through a gender lens

Women often bear a disproportionate burden of health inequity across the globe and visual impairment is no different. The last of the series, this article aims at identifying and elaborating key focus areas which can help in empowering women in this challenging journey. As a community, we should whole-heartedly attempt to empower this intersectional group in achieving success in various walks of the society. Do share your thoughts if any! Happy Reading!

Vision impairment poses an enormous global financial burden. For example, the annual global costs of productivity losses associated with vision impairment were estimated to be US$ 244 billion and US$ 25.4 billion, respectively as per W.H.O.

Women often bear a disproportionate burden of health inequity across the globe and visual impairment is no different. Of the 40 million people in the world who are visually impaired, 55 percent are women (22 million). India is home to a third of the world’s blind population. In India the number of visually impaired people is currently over 12 million with over 6 million women.

Women and girls in low and middle-income countries are disproportionately impacted by uncorrected vision impairment, untreated eye conditions, and blindness. Women’s access to preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment or correction is also lower than for men, meaning eye conditions are more likely to deteriorate, sometimes into permanent disability. There is concern that the disparity in gender is even more pronounced by the current pandemic, in which “non-essential” healthcare is slowed for a period of time.

The reasons

Women with visual impairment have experienced exclusion and marginalization from family, mainstream school, the community and the work-place. The experience of social exclusion is multi-structural, multidimensional and complex. The reasons are manifold, from demographics to inequitable health-care access. Some of the reasons could be:

Because women are believed to be less likely to be economically active, they tend to have less control over limited family budgets, while investing in the health of current or future male breadwinners is prioritized at their expense.

Family responsibilities also leave women with little time for accessing health services while safety risks and social taboos make it hard for some women to travel to hospitals or even to leave home unaccompanied. Lower levels of literacy and increased social isolation can also reduce women’s ability to access information about how to prevent some eye conditions or what treatment and correction options are available.

The discrimination against girls with disabilities is so inherent that it is almost considered normal. In many families in India, a girl with sight challenges is regarded as a burden and blot on the family’s honour. The girls are often stigmatised in their own homes and driven towards hopelessness.

Stigma around the wearing of spectacles is another barrier to women and girls having refractive error corrected. Girls can be viewed as “defective” — and therefore less likely to marry — rather than “effective” if they wear glasses. In contrast, wearing spectacles is perceived as making boys look intelligent.

The consequences

The consequences for women and girls are profound. A lack of understanding around the causes of vision loss or impairment can foster discrimination that leads to girls being hidden by their families and women abandoned by their husbands or separated from their children.

Women with disabilities are also more likely to experience sexual violence but less likely to be able to report it, especially if impaired vision makes it harder for them to describe their attacker.

The myths that people with disabilities are either asexual or undesirable are strong and complex, and play out in different ways in the lives of women and girls with disabilities. This impacts what information they can access, how much freedom they have around self-expression and influences their choices in their personal, romantic and sexual lives.

While children with vision loss are already among the least likely to access education, vision-impaired girls — whose vision could in many cases be corrected with spectacles — are even less likely to attend school than vision-impaired boys. Without education, women and girls are less able to work and earn, more likely to suffer ill-health, and less likely to educate their own children, creating a poverty trap for entire families.

Lack of employment opportunities also renders visually impaired women financially dependent and less able to leave abusive relationships.

The solutions

Tackling the above challenges, both in terms of the prevalence of vision impairment among women and girls and the inequalities that poor eye health exacerbates, requires embedding gender inclusion in all eye-health programs from the outset. It also requires awareness and education at all levels for empowering visually impaired women.

Consulting with women and men — preferably in separate single-sex groups — is key to understanding women’s roles and gender dynamics in any community so that specific barriers to women accessing services can be identified, along with interventions that might work. Men also need to be educated on ways they may be consciously or unconsciously disallowing women’s access to eye care.

Women are typically more comfortable seeking diagnosis or treatment from a female worker while awareness-raising campaigns may not reach women living in purdah, or seclusion, without home visits.

A widespread awareness program in the government and the private sector, aimed at empowerment and actionable points will help creating a tangible change in the lives of the visually impaired women.

The myths that people with disabilities are either asexual or undesirable are strong and complex, and play out in different ways in the lives of women and girls with disabilities.6 This impacts what information they can access, how much freedom they have around self-expression and influences their choices in their personal, romantic and sexual lives

The myths that people with disabilities are either asexual or undesirable are strong and complex, and play out in different ways in the lives of women and girls with disabilities.6 This impacts what information they can access, how much freedom they have around self-expression and influences their choices in their personal, romantic and sexual lives

Education

According to National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), of people suffering from visual impairment in India, only 29.16% are part of the education system. A mere 6.86% schools in India have access to Braille books and audio content. Only one-third of visually impaired children are provided education as few parents are aware of special schools that exist for disabled persons.

The government has been providing many schemes to help the visually impaired such as free Braille textbooks, along with a Braille kit, a smart cane and even smart phones are provided to the students. However, the teachers reiterate that just getting the devices is not sufficient, the students need a lot of encouragement, motivation and support, along with proper training.

Even though educators recognise the talent and encourage the visually impaired children to pursue their ambitions, unfortunately, often the situation is just the opposite at their homes where their parents often don’t attach much importance to them and consider them as a burden on rest of the family. This can be devastating for a student trying to chart out a life path.

Employment

With corporates becoming aware on empowering individuals, the visually impaired now have many opportunities that they can garner for their growth and benefit. Employers are now open to appoint people with visual inabilities as they have acquired skill sets like none other. This way, visually impaired are paving a path of their own and marking a footprint in the professional world to rise high.

There are a numerous job roles that are offered to the visually impaired by both the government and private sectors. Various programs and courses such as the basic level of IT/Computer programming collated with JAWS (A Screen Reader Software) and NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access). There are programs that equip these visually impaired candidate through CRM Voice and QP Training. By taking up these different courses, visually impaired people can enter into different fields. There has been a lot of awareness in the corporate sector and companies like Tata Steel, Infosys, Mahindra group are hiring people in mainstream roles on the basis of their merit.

We as a community need to address the way we approach visual impairment in women and girls, leveraging more cross-sector partnerships to face challenges from every angle. As organisations we have to build a growing understanding of the disparities, and balance the disparities. We have to stop looking at visual impairment in women and girls as strictly a health issue but an education issue, a financial issue, and a wider societal issue. With social inclusiveness and awareness, with no biases for people belonging to different backgrounds or inabilities we can truly build a stronger country. Gaining social parity with an aim to involve the visually impaired is the first step for growth in an economy that aims at being more inclusive.

Read more

Pick your own pay policy

In today’s competitive world, where every organization is talking about making the workplace inclusive and working towards building their unique EVP and Employer brand, retaining their employees is top most priority for the employers. But the question is, how far will you go as an employer to retain your top talent? Progressive HR Processes, Diversity Charters, Inclusive Workplace, Fair Rewards & Recognition program, Performance Appraisals based on merit and a Pick your Own Pay policy? Does it fit the employee expectations? Here is my article on “Pick your Own Pay Policy”, a progressive move by some organizations to retain their talent. Do read, share and pen your comments.

In a corporate world ruled by increments and promotions based on performance and resignations by dissatisfied employees, companies are looking for different ways to retain their top talent. And while there are a lot of options like ESOPs, Progressive Work Policies, Fair and Equal treatment and more, one such initiative which has taken the corporate world by storm is “Pick Your Own Pay Policy”.

Payscale Compensation best Practices Report found that 45% of employers agree or strongly agree that employees feel that they are paid fairly, while only 21% of employees agree or strongly agree that they are paid fairly, a 24% gap in perception.

A mumbai-based Software developer company, Frappe Technologies, was the first Indian company to try this policy in their annual appraisals for last year. The company asked all its 70 employees, except for the ones who were in probation period, to propose what they should get paid and after due consideration, approved for everybody. While a lot of other companies called this a bold move, this company had another view to it. When employees ask is met, we give them the wings to fly high and soar in the sky. Similarly, knowing that the company is going all out to support them, results is higher level of engagement in employees and enhanced accountability and productivity. Also, at an organization level, there is a whole new definition of transparency and trust which gets built.

Pick Your Own Pay has its own meaning for different organizations and industries. While for Frappe Technologies it was about giving its employees the freedom to choose their salary in complete, for some other larger MNCs like Coke, it meant letting the employees choose which and how much allowances they needed in their salaries every year. This lets the employees decide, depending upon their needs, life stages and wants about when they want to have a larger part of their salary as basic and take home, vis-à-vis when they want to have more allowances and flexibility in salary pay-out.

Whatever be the definition, one thing is evident. This policy focuses on driving ideal values – transparency, trust, lower pay disparity, job satisfaction, responsibility and greater accountability in employees. But whatever be the meaning and interpretation, the corporate world views this as a bold yet necessary move to give employees the flexibility to choose. Giving the power in the hands of their employees, on who should get paid what, is quite risky for any organization. So why would organizations want to risk it all and offer this to its employees. The answer is Retention. Satisfied employees stay longer in organizations and monetary aspect plays a critical role in job satisfaction.

But, is this a sustainable effort for retaining employees? Or is this giving an unnecessary leverage to the employees which leads in a certain comfort zone? Let’s deliberate.

Firstly, it is indeed a very transparent culture to build by letting employees decide what they want to be paid. While it may work well for start-ups and smaller size firms, but for larger conglomerates? For MNCs? For bigger organizational setups, it may be a short-term win but not an approach which might be sustainable in the longer term. As organizations grow, the size of workforce also grows and in such a scenario, paying everybody what they are asking for might not be a feasible solution to attrition.

Secondly, in the absence of any benchmarking data or range of salary, employees are likely to use soft benchmarks like the salaries of friends and families which can lead to greater pay disparity and discontent. Also, there will be no basis upon which these salaries will be hiked, except for creating a trust relationship with the employees.

Thirdly, while monetary benefits do play an important part in keeping employees motivated, it is not the only thing that helps in retaining the employees. We have all heard the quote – “Employees don’t leave companies. They leave Bad managers.” So along with giving them a pay / salary which they want, an organization also needs to give their employees the culture, values and environment where they can grow and thrive.

And lastly, pick you own pay policy is like a double-edged sword. While it may help in retaining employees in the short term, but it also might create unnecessary expectations in employees. These expectations, if not met in the long term, could lead to further dissatisfaction in employees and eventually, into attrition.

Drafting this policy and implementing it in an organization might be a short-term attrition reducer but in the long term, it is not a game changer for any company, big or small. We must not overlook the fact that we are all humans. And it is natural human tendency to compare. Leo Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory states that “We compare ourselves to people we see as being similar to us. Our opinion of our own abilities and worth come from comparing what we can do with what others can do.” This means that for a large number of people, the significance of achievement is driven via comparison with others. So, there will never be an absolute and a permanent solution to retaining employees.

While a Pick Your Own Pay Policy or Open Salary Policy or Pick your Allowances Policy may help in providing the financial support and satisfaction which the employees need but it is equally important to give them an enabling environment and culture. Employee retention cannot be achieved only on the basis of monetary satisfaction. Through constant evolution of the HR practice and introduction of progressive HR policies, an organization can create a growth path for self and a culture of innovation.

Read more

Career Gap: Not a taboo anymore

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. –Maya Angelou Having a gap in employment is a lot more common than you may think. And with the millennials comprising 80 % of the workforce today, it is actually becoming popular to take time out of work voluntarily.  Here is an article on my take on “Career Gap- not a taboo anymore”. Please read and share your views in the comments section.   Happy reading!

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. –Maya Angelou

Achieving work life balance is one of the most frequently discussed topics in the corporate world today and especially the Millennials, who make up 35% of the global workforce today, are leading the way with this new mindset.

Some statistics

1.  A recent report by ManpowerGroup shows that 84% of Millennials foresee significant career breaks along the way. This trend reinforces the idea that “career waves” are replacing the “career ladder” of earlier generations.

2. A study written by TSNE’s Deborah Linnell and CompassPoint’s Tim Wolfred, exposes the myth that an executive sabbatical will be a chaotic disruption, finding instead that the creative disruption of a well-planned sabbatical can be productive for the entire leadership of an organization. This study recommends funding sabbaticals as a best practice for leadership development, succession planning and organizational capacity building.

3. In the research conducted by The Sabbatical Project, 50 people were interviewed about their experiences of taking a sabbatical from work, and how it played a part in shaping their lives afterwards. Patterns in their responses show that separation from a stressful working environment, and the opportunity for rest and restoration, can provide a powerful ‘identity workspace’ to reflect and make lifestyle changes for the better.

4. According to the Huffington Post, Cliff Bar has a low employee turnover rate of less than 3%, and when the firm conducted a survey among its employees to determine which perks were the most useful to them, Sabbaticals came out on top.

5. A study by TSNE found that people who’ve took up the roles and responsibilities of employees on sabbatical leave have pursued them effectively.

How it benefits

Employment gaps exist between jobs. Career changes are evident. Parental leave is common. So why is there such taboo surrounding the topic of taking a “gap year”?

Gone were the days when for corporate employees their work life was everything.Today’s workforce prioritizes balance and yes they want to have a proper work life balance throughout their lives. Hence this trend of taking career gaps or work sabbatical is going to stay.

Also, since last 2 years there have been a lot of changes in the work culture across organizations as most of them have transitioned to remote working because of the pandemic. A lot of new leave policies are being introduced at the workplaces, but Sabbatical leave is still there and surprisingly being availed as well. Although the reasons for taking the Sabbatical leaves in the pre pandemic times were quite different like travelling, pursuing passions or hobbies, or opting for higher education.

A lot of work from home experts believe and state that they are suffering from Digital Fatigue and want to take a break just to spend time with their family and that’s how a new reason to take sabbatical leaves is coming into being.

In one of the recent articles in Times of India, Kelloggs South Asia director (HR) Nimisha Das said, “Despite the pandemic, it is unlikely that sabbaticals will go out of the vogue. Working professionals will continue taking them with the exception that the reasons for taking a sabbatical will change. For instance, one of the reasons earlier could be travelling. Now it might be to deal with the challenges of digital fatigue, pursue a newly acquired passion or to simply spend time with their families.”

Another reason which that has been the cause for career gaps nowadays is that when covid pandemic swept across the world in 2019 it caused millions to lose their jobs and made it difficult for them to get employment in the next two years.

There are several misconceptions around sabbaticals, one of them being that for an organization it will be a productivity loss to give an employee so many leaves. As a matter of fact, it actually benefits companies in many ways.

Let’s understand few benefits for both the parties:

For employee:

Ø Employees return rejuvenated and feel like working for challenging opportunities with renewed rigor

Ø Declined stress levels and improved emotional well-being

Ø Personal fulfillment and achieved personal goals

Ø Up-skilling and personal development

Ø Feeling of being valued by the organization and hence, more motivated and sense of belonging and loyalty towards the organization

For employer:

Ø Improved retention

Ø Improved work culture

Ø Productive and motivated teams

Ø Employer branding

Ø Attract new talent

Current scenario around career gaps in the corporate world

While some companies may still be resistant to the idea of sabbaticals, many companies have learned that they benefit both employees and the company.There are a lot of big organizations like Adobe, Intel,TCS, Infosys, EY, Accenture, Deloitte, L & T, Cognizant, Paypal and IBM who have made sabbatical policy official now.

What these new changes in the work culture clearly point towards, is a future where people don’t have to feel embarrassed and afraid because of a gap in their resumes. One’s gap year is for them, and there is no proper way to define another’s gap year or determine if it was worth it or not – that’s for the individual, themselves, to decide.

It’s for business leaders and organizations to understand the changing reasons why their employees may be tempted to leave them and start to update and evolve with the changing times and on the other hand it is employees’ responsibility to contribute back to society by improving or working on themselves during their sabbatical days.

Read more

Remote working: A mixed blessing for women

Given the social construct around the role of women as primary caregivers there is a clear gender push when it comes to choosing remote working as an option. Today, with evolved working models in place, remote/hybrid working has been a blessing for women, helping them manage work and home effectively. While it has provided tremendous flexibility to them, it is important to understand how it may have implications in terms of – lack of visibility at work, assumptions around their commitment and not to forget the missed opportunities to network and build collaborative relationships at work. How is remote working impacting careers , growth trajectory, compensation, performance ratings of women and what are its implications on the existing gender inequities?    Is it a remote work penalty they are paying? A food for thought for organizations and for leaders to create a level playing field for all.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of teleworking modes by employers across the corporate world. Teleworking has allowed organisations to continue operations while protecting employees from virus exposure during lock downs and other restrictive measures implemented by governments. As the pandemic started, we often spoke of ‘Work from Home’ being the new normal and today hybrid working models have become a common feature of corporate culture, as we have started moving to a form of normalcy. These hybrid models, combine in-person work with work from home. In such a context, it is reasonable to wonder whether this trend will narrow the gender divide and help address the corporate culture of “presenteeism” that penalizes women, or whether it will worsen the existing gender inequalities.  When we talk of remote working, work from home – who is more likely to engage and use these formats, men or women?  What are the implications for gender? What impact will it have on their careers, growth trajectory, compensation, and performance ratings and gender pay gap?

Remote Work for Women – Is it a Mixed Blessing?

Prior to the pandemic, a small percentage of the workforce was teleworking occasionally – working from home or a location outside of the employer’s premises. According to a global survey of CIOs, prior to the pandemic, approximately 15 to 16 percent of respondents stated that their companies’ workforce worked remotely. But after a year, in March 2021, 70% of respondents were working remotely.  Reports suggest in EU – in Finland, 60% of employees shifted to working from home, whereas in Italy and Austria, 40% of employees shifted to this type of work (Eurofound, 2020). As per LinkedIn Talent Solutions, in the US in 2020, 1 in 67 was in a remote job as compared to now in 2022 where 1 in 6 is in a remote job.

One of the proclaimed objectives of remote working has been to support working parents, especially mothers, and reduce gender inequalities in employment. Hence, there is a clear gender push when choosing the remote work option. Even in the hybrid working models prevalent today, women have been the ones using the WFH opportunity the most. According to a Forbes poll, 19% of women never want to return to in-person work, compared to only 7% of men. According to a recent LinkedIn survey, women are 26% more likely than men to apply for remote jobs.

Here, it is worth reviewing how the remote working trend has been impacting working women both on personal and professional front.

THE REMOTE WORK PENALTY

While on a personal front, there are compelling reasons – remote working has eased things for women giving them flexibility, making it easier for mothers to balance paid work and family responsibilities, first hand evidence clearly shows that they do a disproportionate amount of housework and childcare when compared to men. Women continue to pay motherhood penalty, for the unpaid care work they do. But the intense multitasking between these responsibilities has led to increased levels of stress, anxiety, spiked burnout rates among women which in turn has been adversely impacts their employability.

We can’t stop at the above. In the current ways of working which is a mix of remote and hybrid working models with a predominant percentage of women in fixed remote working roles we come across what we call – Remote Work Penalty which women often end up paying. This includes an array of things which the corporate culture of presenteeism brings with it and puts remote working women at a disadvantage. It important to note that these could be potential threats that can impact even men working remotely in terms of their experiences, key decisions around their compensation, performance ratings and team involvement. But women working remotely at are a higher risk of experiencing these. Let us see how.

  • Assumptions round Commitment

This is the biggest challenge women face as they work remotely. Asking for accommodations like flex working specially by women is assumed to be a sign of low commitment. This lack of trust often dampens the work opportunities for women and hinder their likelihood of promotion since working from a distance could make them seem less involved.

  • Lack of Visibility

Women working remotely often find it harder to showcase their achievements, find it uncomfortable to speak up, make their point or carefully listened to in virtual meetings as compared to men. They find it hard to interject and participate in conversations, meeting etc impacting their visibility in the team and organization. As per a catalyst survey, women business leaders reported its difficult to speak up in virtual meetings.

  • Missed Opportunities to Network/Relationship Building

The saying out of sight, out of mind fits appropriately here. Working remotely becomes a barrier in the way of building relationships at work with co-workers and leaders. Working remotely, women miss on the opportunities to network, meet colleagues in person, develop mentors which are key as they collaborate for work and grow in the organization.

  • The Power Differences

In the hybrid working model, the proximity bias or the face time bias as it is called, often creates power differences between those in office and those working virtually, in terms of allocation of work responsibilities, influence and decision making.  Again, women working virtually, find themselves mostly at a disadvantage here.

Creating a Level Playing Field

Organizations and leaders need to reflect on how they can create a level playing field for employees working virtually or otherwise. They need to be intentional about how they view the hybrid workplace and at the same time be mindful of the drawbacks of remote working.

Certain tweaks in current practices at work can make a huge difference. For example, it could be in terms of how performance reviews are taken, team meetings are conducted or avenues for communication provided or reviewing expectations set around remote working – focusing on productivity rather that hours logged.

Leaders should go out of their way to ensure that a two-layer workforce is not created in which in-person employees have greater access to special projects, raises, and promotions. And organizations need to bring in policies that can support leaders create that inclusive and equitable ecosystem in a remote/hybrid working model.

Read more

Servant Leadership – A RELEVANT STYLE IN TODAYS TIME

We live in a society where leaders are expected to lead, coach, guide, monitor, motivate and drive business but not be selfless and serve juniors or subordinates. Which is why, even though the concept of Servant Leadership is decades old, it has found renewed importance in todays age and post COVID times. A leader is somebody who leads by example and prioritizes self-growth before coaching other and a Servant Leader aspires to serve his/her team and the organization first, ahead of their personal goals. Here is my article on “Servant Leadership – an Important Leadership style in todays corporate world”. Being a servant leader is amazing, but it’s a huge commitment because you’re really going to have to take very intentional actions to be a servant leader. It’s really about truly walking that talk every day and the road often gets blurred. Do read, like and share your comments.

Read more

Driving inclusion in black history month

Organizations are a sub-unit of the society at large and Diversity and Inclusion are at the heart, as a core value for many organizations. While we go all out on driving inclusion through diversity, what we often miss is Equality and Equity. A place where everybody feels valued, heard and taken care of. Black History Month is not just about being aware of the history of the Black community, recognizing their contribution and providing equal opportunities; it is also about sensitizing your employees on building empathy and overcoming the bias of diversity hiring. Here is my next article on how to create safe spaces for the community in organizations and accepting them for their talent and experience, for what they bring on the table. Do read and share your comments!

Read more