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Level Up: How to Thrive in the New Hybrid Workplace
The model is here to stay, but there are downsides for women if it’s not done well.
Laura Anderson thought hybrid work “would be the best of both worlds,” allowing her to tidy up her house and pick up her kids from school every day, while getting ahead in her job as a content marketer. Then her company announced that employees would be required to come to the office three days a week—and she hated it.
“I felt like I almost had less flexibility, because I never felt so closely scrutinized before the pandemic,” she says.
Laura’s experience is a perfect example of the perks and perils of the hybrid workplace. For working parents, it’s an opportunity to ditch a few grueling commutes each week, take a midday jog and catch up on laundry while answering emails. That tantalizing opportunity to blend work and life in a way that doesn’t leave us depleted is a big part of the appeal—over half of employees prefer to work remotely, most or part of the time, according to the 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by WTW.
But these apparent benefits can be deceptive, warns Anne Helen Petersen in a Bloomberg piece titled, “The Work-From-Home Revolution Is Also a Trap for Women.” The problem, she cautions, isn’t the flexibility itself, but how it can turn moms into “one-woman safety nets,” as we slowly take on more and more domestic duties. (In survey after survey, women are more eager to work from home than men.)
“If I have a break or some downtime, I can throw in a load of laundry or do some quick decluttering. And I can tell you my husband does not seem to view it in the same way,” Laura says. (Laura Anderson is not her real name; she requested to remain anonymous for this piece.) “He doesn’t really behave any differently when working from home than he does in the office. He goes into the home office and stays in there all day, other than lunch. I do think I end up doing slightly more domestic work, because of it.”
There are other ways hybrid work might hold women back, especially if more moms are opting to work remotely, while more dads work in person. Researchers warn that “proximity bias”—our unconscious tendency to give preferential treatment to those in our immediate vicinity—could favor in-person workers. Employees who report to the office every day might have better access to crucial information and company leadership, putting them in prime position for promotions. Experts stress that how company leaders implement a work-from-home policy is crucial. Just because a company commits to a hybrid system doesn’t mean it’s truly embraced flexible work. Laura, for example, became frustrated when she was still mostly on video calls after commuting into the office.
“My company stressed that being in office was SO important for face to face interactions. And then it felt like they weren’t even trying to facilitate that,” Laura says. “It was like they were throwing us all a bone with two days at home, but then not really trying to optimize those three days that we were in the office. So it just felt pointless—why commute to sit at a desk and do video calls? I can do that at home.”
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Now she is at home, after switching to a job where she is able to work remotely every day, but can commute into the office if she’d like. Experts stress that smart leaders will move to a model like this—one that measures output instead of face time, and allows employees to work according to their own schedules.
But just because working from home can have pitfalls doesn’t mean moms should say no to remote work days, especially since hybrid work is here to stay in many industries. (As of February 2022, nearly half of employees told Gallup they work in a hybrid model.) The key is to rigorously enforce boundaries with your family, so that you’re able to do work at home, and to make sure you’re staying top of mind with your manager and company leadership, so you aren’t overlooked when it’s time for raises, promotions and key projects. We talked to the experts at Indeed to find out how to do just that. Here’s what they suggest:
4 Ways to Stay Visible When You Work from Home
Picture this: You’ve officially gotten the go-ahead to work from home a few days a week. You can finally balance your personal and professional life with the flexibility you’ve been dreaming about. However, you’re worried you may not be able to stand out as much as you would if you were at the office. How do you stay visible while working remotely? Can you still be a top performer? Read along for our top tips:
Schedule regular catch-ups with your manager and team. While it may be tempting to communicate solely via email or direct messaging, it’s important to have some face-to-face contact with your team—whether virtually or in-person. For example, turning on your camera, especially when you’re speaking or presenting, can amplify your presence and attract more attention and focus from your colleagues. Remember that a significant part of interpersonal communication is being able to read the person’s face and expressions while they’re speaking.
Look for mentors among senior leadership. If you want to show you’re serious about growth in your role, take time to reach out to more senior members of your team for mentorship opportunities. This will not only help you stand out to leadership, but also give you opportunities to hone your skills and receive guidance from an experienced member of your organization. If they aren’t able to make that commitment just yet, propose a chat over coffee to get to know them a bit better.
Point out your and others’ accomplishments. In a virtual world, it’s easy to keep chugging along without acknowledging the great work you and your team are doing day-to-day. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn a bit and share with your manager and wider team the goals you’ve met and the projects you have gone above and beyond on. Reaching out to your teammates to give them praise will also help in building morale because who doesn’t like to get some positive reinforcement every now and then?
Attend happy hours and social events when possible. Stay in the loop by attending social events your team may be hosting. Showing face at these gatherings will give you and your coworkers a chance to connect and create a relationship outside of work. While the work you do during work hours is most important, socializing can help you bring more visibility and give you the opportunity to build rapport.
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