Thursday 20 May 2021 7:00 am

Vodafone: Pandemic-induced remote working hit women hardest

Nearly half of all women who leave the workplace for over a year suffer from a loss of confidence, according to a new report today, which urged employers to further support employees as they flock to offices once again.

As Covid restrictions are being eased, the study published today by Vodafone, found that women can be knocked by a prolonged time out of work as increasing childcare costs are cited as a key concern.

Vodafone’s research found that women face bigger challenges than men in balancing work with caring responsibilities and meeting the cost of childcare.

Nearly half of female workers, 45 per cent, struggled with balancing work and caring responsibilities, alongside 30 per cent of men.

Meanwhile, 40 per cent of all returners said the cost of childcare was a challenge, which struck double the percentage of women compared to men.

Big Four firm Deloitte also found childcare and chores left its female professionals burned out during the pandemic.

After over a year of primarily remote working, over a third of employees returning to offices will have suffered a jab to their confidence in their abilities, particularly when struggling to juggle commitments.

This hit to confidence impacts women nearly twice as much as men, the study found, as 42 per of women reported doubting their skills compared with 24 per cent of men.

Employer support

It will take a while to adjust after a year of faceless meetings and sofa-based brunches, but supporting workers may bring a well-needed boost to companies after a tiring 12 months.

“Supporting returners helps organisations bridge skills shortages and improve retention and diversity while supporting those individuals and the wider economy,” general counsel and external affairs director at Vodafone, Helen Lamprell, said.

31 per cent of women and 25 per cent of men returning to work said they found it hard to adjust to working life following such a long break.

“Right now, it is more important than ever to ensure that women returning to work can do so with confidence that they will be supported in inclusive workplaces,” director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, professor Rosie Campbell, said.

Campbell added that “the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and remedying this will be essential to economic recovery.”

Economic recovery will rely heavily on productivity, and with 71 per cent of employees saying they felt ‘cut off from the world’ during remote working, employers will need to step up.

Younger workers, aged 18 to 24, and those aged 45 to 65 were particularly impacted, according to the study.

The report argues that employers and the government need to provide greater support to encourage people back into the workforce who may have taken a career break.

Female professionals returning to the workplace this year have the potential to bring over £1bn to the UK economy but need to be mentally ready to do so.

Meanwhile, the study urged companies to make sure the challenges women face are properly met. 

“It’s clear that supporting people who have taken a career break, particularly women, back into work can deliver significant economic benefits as well as improve an organisation’s retention rate and diversity,” co-chair of Women and Work APPG, Laura Farris, said.

“This agenda is even more pressing now given the economic impact of Covid-19 and the number of people who have been out of an office environment or furloughed over the last year.”