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“You risk becoming invisible” - why WFH hurts women workers hardest

 (Pexels / Vlada Karpovich)
(Pexels / Vlada Karpovich)

‘WFH’ might be the most-overused acronym in business, but the ‘hot takes’ about how working from home has changed our lives are still flowing, four years after the whole world started doing it.

I, for one, couldn’t do without it. Data from LinkedIn shows that women are 26 per cent more likely than men to apply for remote working jobs. It’s no wild surprise why: even in 2024, women tend to find ourselves with more caring responsibilities, whether for children or older relatives.

However, while flexible working makes work possible for millions of women who might otherwise be pushed out of the workforce, those working from home can also find a new type of glass ceiling appears.

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“You risk becoming invisible,” one City worker tells me. “A lot of senior people still prefer a deskside discussion. ‘Face time’ is still a big thing.”

But Racheal Smith, head of learning at Entelechy Academy, which focuses on fostering ‘human-first’ company cultures, sees it differently. “The primary cause of a woman “disappearing” is that they are less likely to give voice to their achievements, or their desire for advancement,” she says. “WFH means that they are then completely reliant on an effective line manager to call out their strengths.”

Racheal Smith, head of learning at Entelechy Academy (Entelechy Academy)
Racheal Smith, head of learning at Entelechy Academy (Entelechy Academy)

She believes managers are duty bound to toot employees horns for them.

“In a world where businesses are desperately in need of certain skill sets, and those working from home are the most hidden of all hidden talent, company leaders need to ask, what is their proactive strategy for finding it and applying it to the success of their business? There are engagement surveys, there are profiling tools; there are many ways of getting to the voice of those individuals.”

If you want WFH to keep working for you, commit to making yourself visible from afar. “Ask yourself, what can I do to give voice to my strengths? Do I speak in a way that is representative of how good I am? Do I know where I am when benchmarked against others?” advises Smith.

“Speak up, network, join groups within organisations: it is possible to assert yourself in a hybrid work environment.”

Discuss WFH and other key workplace issues at The Watercooler and The Office, the ultimate workplace event; 23-24 April 2024, ExCel London – FREE to attend.

The Watercooler (The Watercooler)
The Watercooler (The Watercooler)