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Continued from Practice……

In the last part, we see the recommendations for future.

We have seen so far that despite progress, the inclusion of women in workforce, and their career growth remains a challenge. Though McKinsey report focuses on organizations in the US only, but other reports from Europe show similar issues. Among Asian countries, there are many variations. For example, Japanese women prefer to stay home, rather than pursue a career. In other East Asian countries, women work as a matter of routine along with men. Middle East and South Asia have more leaning towards men’s working; religion also playing a part.

The primary debate is not about whether women should work or not. This question relates to cultural and societal norms. The concern is that the women who join workforce should get a better chance at getting their work recognized and get the opportunity to advance their careers.

COVID19 has affected work in multiple ways, and we are still grappling with the new realities. Since the pandemic is yet far from being over, it is all the more confusing as to what to do.

McKinsey report succinctly describes challenge and the way forward and may be quoted without comment. Some editing has been done in the interest of brevity and relevance.


The path forward

The choices companies make could shape the workplace for women for decades to come—for better or for worse. 

The challenges facing companies right now are serious. Up to two million women are considering leaving the workforce. The “broken rung” that held millions of women back from being promoted to manager has not been repaired.

There are two paths ahead. If companies recognize the scale of these problems and do all they can to address them, they can help their employees get through this difficult time and even reinvent the way they work so it’s more flexible and sustainable for everyone. If not, the consequences could badly hurt women, business, and the economy as a whole. This moment requires long-term thinking, creativity, strong leadership, and a laser focus on the value of women to their organizations. 

To retain the women most affected by the challenges of COVID-19, companies need to take steps to reduce the additional pressures they’re experiencing. Here are six key areas where companies should focus or expand their efforts. 

1) Make work more sustainable

A sustainable pace of work is essential to helping mothers, senior-level women, and all employees facing burnout get through this crisis. To make this happen, leaders and managers need to look at productivity and performance expectations set before COVID-19 and ask if they’re still realistic. They may also need to reset goals, narrow project scopes, or keep the same goals and extend deadlines. Currently, only a small number of managers are doing this.  

2) Reset norms around flexibility

COVID-19 has made it much harder for employees to draw clear lines between work and home, and many employees feel like they are “always on.” Companies should look for ways to reestablish work–life boundaries. For many, this may require setting new work norms—for example, establishing set hours for meetings, putting policies in place for responding to emails outside typical business hours, and improving communication about work hours and availability within teams. 

3) Take a close look at performance reviews

Performance reviews are an important part of running an effective organization and rewarding employees for their contributions. But given the shift to remote work and the heightened challenges employees are coping with in their personal lives, performance criteria set before COVID-19 may no longer be appropriate. Managers can relieve employees’ stress—and refocus on key priorities—by reassessing performance criteria set before the pandemic to make sure those criteria are still attainable. Bringing criteria into line with what employees can reasonably achieve may help to prevent burnout and anxiety—and this may ultimately lead to better performance and higher productivity.7

4) Take steps to minimize gender bias

The pandemic may be amplifying biases women have faced for years: higher performance standards, harsher judgment for mistakes, and penalties for being mothers and for taking advantage of flexible work options. These biases could show up in new ways during COVID-19: for example, when colleagues see young children playing in the background on video calls; when coworkers assume, consciously or unconsciously, that women are less committed to their jobs; or when managers are evaluating women in performance reviews.

To mitigate the biases that women are up against, companies need to make sure that employees are aware of them. Leaders and employees should speak publicly about the potentially outsize impact of bias during COVID-19. And finally, it’s important to track outcomes for promotions and raises by gender—as well as the breakdown of layoffs and furloughs by gender—to make sure women and men are being treated fairly. 

5) Adjust policies and programs to better support employees

Many companies have extended policies and programs to support employees during COVID-19, from offering more paid time off to providing resources for homeschooling. Companies should make sure employees are aware of the full range of benefits available to them. Right now, there’s a significant gap between what companies offer and what employees are aware of.

6) Strengthen employee communication

Open and frequent communication with employees is critical, especially in a crisis; when employees are surprised by decisions that have an impact on their work, they are three times more likely to be unhappy in their job. Yet one in five employees have consistently felt uninformed or in the dark during COVID-19. This suggests that companies should share more regular updates on the state of the business and key decisions that affect employees’ work and lives—and they should directly address what difficult news means for employees. It’s also critical that leaders and HR teams communicate with empathy, so employees feel valued and understood.

The road to progress

The COVID-19 crisis has prompted companies to rethink fundamental beliefs about remote work. Ninety-three percent of companies now say more jobs can be performed remotely, and close to 70 percent predict a significant share of their employees will regularly work remotely a year from now. 10 Employees see the benefits of remote work, too—almost eight in ten say they want to continue to work from home more often than they did before COVID-19. 

This could be the beginning of a seismic shift in the way we work, with enormous implications. Companies may be able to tap into larger and more diverse talent pools, as opposed to limiting their recruiting to specific regions. And they already anticipate these benefits: 70 percent think remote work will allow them to increase diversity in their hiring. Moreover, remote work will open up opportunities for existing employees—particularly mothers, caregivers, older employees, and people with disabilities. If companies can create a culture that supports both in-person and remote workers, these employees will be able to take on jobs that previously would have required them to relocate, travel extensively, or manage a long commute. 

Taken together, these dynamics point to an increased focus on supporting employees as “whole people.” And when employees feel like they can bring their whole selves to work, good things happen: they are happier with their job, more optimistic about their company’s commitment to gender and racial equality, and less likely to consider downshifting their role or leaving the workforce. They’re also more comfortable sharing challenges with managers and coworkers, giving companies the visibility to make changes that improve employees’ experiences. It’s a positive cycle: the more employees can bring their whole selves to work, the more the workplace will work for them—and for everyone. [Unquote]


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