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Return of office work spells misery for women workers


MUMBAI :

The adoption of rigid back-to-office policies by several companies in India will hit their women workers and reduce their diversity ratios, a LinkedIn report said. In an exclusive study shared with Mint, the professional networking site said that seven out of 10 working women have left a job or are considering leaving in the absence of the right flexible policies.

“As the Great Reshuffle continues, companies with biased practices and inadequate flexible policies run the risk of excluding diverse talent pools with unique perspectives,” Ruchee Anand, senior director-talent, learning and engagement solutions at LinkedIn, said in an interview.

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A reality check

Many women were forced to take pay cuts for flexibility, while many others have had their flexibility requests turned down, the LinkedIn survey of 2,266 respondents showed. The finds are part of the LinkedIn report titled Career Breaks and Flexibility Consumer Research 2022.

The study found that ever since the pandemic outbreak, working women (83%) are more likely to want to work more flexibly. It showed that 72% of working women say they’ll never take up a job that doesn’t allow them to work flexibly.

These numbers come in at a time companies are nudging employees to return to the office after more than two years of work-from-home policies. Recruiters across sectors have been asked to ensure that new joinees are willing to work from the office or, at the bare minimum, be located in the same city as their offices.

Anand termed this trend “unfortunate”, adding companies and recruiters instead need to introduce new work policies that address the stigma around flexibility and normalize career breaks to make work ‘work’ for women.

The report said the top policies that women find most helpful are flexible work timings (86%), reduced working hours (82%), remote work policies (82%) and hybrid work policies (82%). But only a few working women are being offered these policies by employers today: flexible work timings (31%), reduced working hours (25%), remote work policies (25%) and hybrid work policies (26%).

However, the demand for flexibility brings with it a fear of exclusion and pay cuts. About nine out of 10 (88%) working women in India have had to take a pay cut to work flexibly, and more than half of whom (47%) still work the same hours.

The top five reasons for women not making use of flexible arrangements at the workplace include “being overlooked from working on special projects” (29%), “being held back from a promotion or a pay raise” (29%), “end up working overtime” (26%), “would have to take a pay cut” (24%), and “manager would treat them unfavourably” (23%).

Interestingly, taking a break helped many women invest in their well-being. LinkedIn reported that 83% of female professionals in India said that taking a break positively impacted their well-being compared to only 75% of males.

Some sectors are more open to flexible work policies than others. The report highlighted that IT and telecom (89.59%), legal (88%), and education (87.59%) are industries where professionals are working flexibly. The least flexible are HR (79%), healthcare(80%), and architecture, engineering and building (80%).



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