Is the remote-working model that has become widespread with the pandemic becoming permanent? Speaking to BirGün, International Labour Organization (ILO) Senior Specialist on Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination Emanuela Pozzan answered this question cautiously: “It is still to be seen if remote-working arrangements will be fully embraced once the pandemic ends. An hybrid formula of in-presence and remote working is probably what many workers would prefer. It is worth mentioning that not all jobs are suitable for teleworking as “teleworkable” jobs are typically well-paid, white-collar occupations in big cities.’
According to Pozzan, during these months of prolonged remote-working, both the benefits and the side-effects have been highlighted.
‘The blurring of physical and organisational boundaries between work and home especially when remote-work is performed on a continued basis, if not adequately managed, can have a negative impact on an individual’s mental and physical health and intensify work-family tensions’ Pozzan warns.
‘WOMEN SHOULDER THE BRUNT OF THIS ADDITIONAL PRESSURE’
‘A few studies assessing the impact of teleworking on workers’ health outcomes during the early phases of the pandemic report that mothers experience higher psychological distress compared to women without children and to all men’ she said and added:
‘Mothers may find it harder to meet tight, but not always important, deadlines or attend meetings, while feeding young kids or helping them in homeschooling at the same time and, as a result, may work late to meet such deadlines or carry out other duties. With the pandemic and the sudden closure of schools and daily care centres, the amount of domestic chores and unpaid care work have no doubt increased. According to a recent survey by UN Women covering 50 countries, 28 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men reported an increase in the intensity of their domestic work.’
Noting that this was in fact already the case before the COVID-19 outbreak, Pozzan said, ‘Women carrying out more than three-quarters of the total daily time spent in unpaid care work across the world. But preliminary evidence available seems to suggest, with no surprise, that women shoulder the brunt of this additional pressure during pandemic.’
CARE SERVICES OFFERED ARE VITAL
What will be the picture in terms of working life after the pandemic? Will women prefer to stay home while men go to work?
‘This will very much depend on the reactivation and well-functioning of care services in the country and on the extent to which the work will be organized with a view to avoiding any additional source of will not become discrimination’ said Pozzan.
‘In an ideal world, both women and men should be able to share the unpaid care work. If women wish to choose staying home, this should not be a reason for missing out in career opportunities.’
THE MEASURES THAT GOVERNMENT SHOULD TAKE
Pozzan lists other measures that governments should take if home-based work becomes permanent:
‘Access to affordable, reliable and high-quality childcare and elderly care is essential if people are to concentrate on their work without constant interruptions due to family care or housework. Provide a comprehensive package of care leave policies, including parental leave, whether paid or unpaid. Ensure the right of employees to disconnect from their work to prevent anxiety and burnout and allow for work-life balance.’
‘Workplace policies and strategies need to ensure that those who choose or are mandated to work at home do not experience negative career consequences, such as not being offered career advancement or training opportunities, including training on installing and using computer software for efficient and effective telework.’ she added.
Emphasizing the importance of work-home border management, ILO Senior Specialist on Gender Equality and Non-Discrimination Emanuela Pozzan said, “To the extent possible, workplace policies and practices, including when meetings are convened, should be adaptable and accommodate the different needs of different employees, irrespective of gender or life course stage. If you still need to be on call for a typical “9 to 5”, the benefits of working remotely are significantly reduced. Work-home boundary management support is also key. Good practices include establishing organizational policies regarding hours of “contactability” (which is broader than normal working hours), as well as shutting down computer servers at night and over the weekends or discouraging management to contact employees during leave periods or over weekends. Each employee also needs to adopt their own boundary management strategy.’
'Managers should be assisted in shifting towards management by results instead of management by control. This entails, among others, setting more realistic expectations, re-evaluating performance criteria – for instance, not criticizing employees for working outside of core hours; communicating clearly about duties, tasks; assessing regularly the employees’ workload; providing technical or logistical support as required; and facilitating co-worker networking’ she added.
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