For International Women’s Day 2021 we want to introduce you to some research and findings which we hope will support the workplace going forward. We tend to look to the positive and see that amongst the stress the pandemic has brought, it has also brought new ideas, is reshaping working policies, increased environmental awareness, changed our ways of living and also changed the way we relate to each other. So what can we learn from this time? And what should we keep in place going forward?
The pandemic has now accelerated the growing trend for flexible working contracts, with positive effects on the mental health of employees. The recent Forever Flex report states that 34% of employers reported increased productivity from flexible working during lockdown and the same percentage also reported improved employee wellbeing and happiness. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of mental well-being in the working world, but it can also be used as an opportunity for businesses to transition to genuine flexible-working cultures. Flexible working can lead to a better work-life balance, which leads to better mental health and in turn greater productivity. It also means that there is flexibility to do the school run and to fit work in around your lifestyle and routine rather than the usual rush to fit everything in to a standard office-based 9-5 working day. A workplace which puts an emphasis on empathy and flexibility can not only retain female employees but could also allow them to fulfil their potential to a higher degree in the long-term.
Emotional wellness/’emotional fitness’ is essential for thriving during times of stress both in work and in life and it can be improved by cultivating resilience, optimism, an inner sense of control, assertiveness and self-efficacy. These are all competencies which can be learnt. In the recently conducted study Employee Engagement Is Less Dependent On Managers Than You Think, Forbes found that increasing an employee’s level of optimism improved their inspiration at work by 30%, compared to 21% when the employee’s accomplishments were recognised by their employer. A report by WISE showed that diminishing self-confidence was a barrier to senior female professionals returning to work, but that these barriers could be in part counteracted with motivation and personal attitude. Related to building confidence is making sure you are surrounded by supporters and this we read yesterday is actually a science. This Ted article explains more about how to build your nervous system and this allows us to take criticism and handle stress better. The article mentions “We also regulate each other with words — a kind word may calm you, like when a friend gives you a compliment at the end of a hard day. And a hateful word may cause your brain to predict threat and flood your bloodstream with hormones, squandering precious resources from your body budget”. The concept of a body budget is an interesting one and shows that we have a certain capacity to handle people and take situations, you can increase or decrease that if you follow some advice from the article, increasing your capacity strengthens self confidence. The pandemic has been an ideal time to experiment with what we can take and to test what makes us feel better/worse. By now we all know ourselves pretty well!
At FGA, we happen to have a majority female team led by female startup founder and CEO Sarah Wilkin, which as you can see from the photo above we are happy to have. We’re also pleased that 2 of our team members are Mums looking to stay engaged while bringing up their children, which is a full time job, but as smart ladies they both want to stay sharp and stay well read. A big reason we support this is due to the findings of this PwC report from 2016 which showed that women who take career-breaks face greater obstacles when returning to the labour market and often end up working below their potential in lower-skilled positions. In the long-term this significantly impacts the earnings and career progression of professional women in senior roles, as well as gains to the economy. Women mainly take career breaks for family reasons, and the unequal burden of housework and child-rearing combined with a lack of flexible working opportunities creates a logistical barrier to return to work. Before the pandemic, this research suggested that this could be remedied partly through employers reassessing the candidate’s potential and returnship schemes, but also through more part-time and flexible professional roles becoming available. During the pandemic there has been what is termed ‘shecession’ as more women than men have exited the labour market since the start. By the end of 2021, this could take back years of progress towards gender diversity in the workforce and stunt economic growth.
At FGA we support and mentor the career development of our employees and actively encourage flexible working and shared parenting between men and women, and by following brilliant start ups such as Project Fearless. Personal and professional development is one of our core values and we make sure our team are cared for and upskilled to take on the most challenging times!
Happy IWD 2021 from the FGA Team!