Today, 60% of the workforce are digital natives, and their engagement preferences profoundly impact the world of B2B buying and selling. We have officially crossed the digital chasm. This is further reinforced by the transition to remote work – which I believe is here to stay, despite return to office (RTO) mandates made by CEOs such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, and others.
A recent McKinsey study found that 87% of workers take advantage of remote work when it’s offered to them. In fact, only 7% of companies plan to pull back on remote and hybrid work in the next year, with 32% indicating work from home options will expand. These shifts in the ways we work will continue to impact how B2B buyers and sellers show up. The majority of buyer/seller interactions will occur in digital channels, and digital sales rooms are poised to become the primary channel for buyer/seller collaboration. As a result, in-person meetings will be less frequent and buyer-driven. The flexibility of remote and hybrid work offers new possibilities, particularly for women in the workforce, but like most changes, it also presents challenges.
In October, I delivered a keynote address for the Women In Sales Leadership Elevation Conference, which was hosted by the Institute for Excellence in Sales. In my speech, I covered the benefits and difficulties remote work presents for women in the workforce.
“I was thrilled to hear all the great ways that companies and individuals are working at making hybrid work work! It was equally thrilling to hear others brainstorming how they might incorporate — and even expand on — on some of the ideas shared. It is exactly what I had hoped would come out of the conference.” —Gina Stracuzzi, Co-Founder/Director Women in Sales Leadership Forum and Elevation Conference
It was a terrific event where I learned a lot from the sessions and conversations with attendees. Here are some highlights.
How we got here
While the shift to digital and remote work were well underway before the world was impacted by COVID-19, it’s indisputable that the pandemic dramatically accelerated these emergent trends. Unfortunately, remote work in some cases has had disproportionate negative consequences for women in the workforce. According to the University of Pennsylvania, 2 million women left the workforce during the pandemic. What’s really heartbreaking is that 45% of mothers who left the workforce cited childcare as a major factor in their decision, compared to only 14% of fathers. Two decades into the 21st century and the lion-share of household, child, and elder care burdens still fall on women regardless of their professional responsibility and earning capacity.
However, the news isn’t all bad! The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women are now back in the workforce at the highest rate since the pandemic began, and the number of women with children in the workforce is higher than ever. Not only are women rejoining the workforce again, they’re doing so with purpose and ambition. Eighty-one percent of women say they want to be promoted to a higher level this year, and 97% say they view their careers as very important. While issues remain, it’s become somewhat easier for women to juggle personal and professional responsibilities with the increased flexibility remote work provides.
Only 7% of companies are planning to pull back on remote and hybrid work, so while the vocal minority issue their RTO edicts, I am not bullish. Thirty-two percent of companies say their work from home options are likely to expand. These organizations are experiencing tangible benefits for employees and to their bottom lines. The productivity gains are indisputable, as it is estimated the average employee saves 72 minutes per day by working from home.
Remote work empowers women
Some of the benefits are obvious; some are unexpected, and others are more nuanced. Almost three quarters of women say they’re more efficient and productive working from home and 67% say working from home has had a positive impact on their career growth. The stat that really caught my eye was that 90% of women said remote and hybrid work serves as a workplace equalizer.
“I love that remote work tears down geographic boundaries, giving you access to roles previously out of reach.” —Janice Gordon, Founder of Scale Your Sales
“Working from home can put some distance between the lack of inclusion, micro-aggressions, and discrimination faced by women and underrepresented populations.” —DeAnna Ransom, co-Founder and CEO of Red Monkey Consulting
The benefits of remote work aren’t just limited to work life. An overwhelming majority of women reported benefits in their personal lives as well. Some of them include:
- Health benefits. Eighty-three percent of women say working from home allows them to prioritize their physical and mental wellbeing.
- More family time. Eighty- two percent of women believe hybrid work allows them to prioritize family and children.
- More sleep. Sixty-one percent of women say working from home allows them to operate at peak performance.
- Increased exercise time. Fifty-five percent of women say working from home affords them more time to go to the gym or work out.
- Cost-savings. Workers required to go to the office spend an additional $51 a day.
Blurred lines increase burnout
Change — even if mostly positive — creates new hurdles, and remote/hybrid work is not an exception. Even though an overwhelming majority of women prefer remote work, it takes a toll. Men (79%) are a staggering 42% more likely than women (37%) to report positive experiences working from home. As I mentioned earlier, the problems women faced during the pandemic didn’t go away. The BBC found:
“In homes with male-female partnerships, much of the domestic labor still falls on women, just as it has in the past, regardless of whether they are in the workforce. This makes them highly susceptible to burnout, which was a leading cause of women leaving jobs during the pandemic.” — BBC article “Women are returning to work, but there’s more to the story”
The blurred lines between professional and personal lives tax workers’ mental health, especially when the burden of household tasks continue to fall on women. Women business leaders are 12% more likely than their male counterparts to feel burnt out at work.
“Stress levels and mental health become compromised under the burden of blurred lines between work. The flexibility of working from home allows us to attend our child’s game or take an elderly family member to a doctor’s appointment — but you still need to get your work done.” —DeAnna Ransom, co-Founder and CEO of Red Monkey Consulting
While there are tangible benefits to life in the office, including social interactions, collaboration and better onboarding, one concern I have is the “out of sight out of mind” issue. Strategic business decisions as well as those regarding promotions and raises are often made outside of the office and oftentimes at social gatherings. Getting in-person face-time with leaders, deciders, and other stakeholders is more difficult than ever.
“Women may be affected by proximity bias or flexibility stigma — phenomena in which bosses advantage in-person workers whom they can see, even unconsciously.” —Megan Marrone, Technology Editor at Axios
How to overcome remote/hybrid challenges
Yes, organizations should do everything in their power to help their workers overcome the new and exacerbated challenges remote female employees face. Here are my tips:
- Plan to get face-time with leadership. Avoid falling victim to proximity bias and flexibility bias by making these opportunities happen, and always make yourself available when leadership is in your area.
- Create structure where none exists. One attendee from the conference told me, she starts her day off with a walk, and then she starts work. Her workday ends when she goes for the same walk. She’s manufactured a boundary between her personal and work life.
- Seek out mentorship. This has always been key for women in the workforce. Having a strong network and “personal board” can help you identify blind spots and provide a virtual or actual pat on the back when needed.
As a co-CEO, and staunch supporter of remote work, I firmly believe organizations must provide all remote workers the support they need to be successful. Here are a few tips for business leaders:
- Shift to in-person onboarding. We’re looking at this at Mediafly. I’ve heard from new employees that remote onboarding just doesn’t cut it. In-person onboarding ensures new hires can get together and make valuable connections when they first start their journey at a new company.
- Help employees create their space. Employees need a space where they feel comfortable — physically and emotionally, and where they will be motivated to do their best work. Help them create a home office where they can be productive by subsidizing part of the set up.
- Formalize mentorship programs. Mentorship needs to be encouraged, and there’s no better way then a formal, company-sponsored program. Ensure women — and all employees — have the support they need outside of their teams and reporting structures to do their best work, have an impact, and navigate an exciting career path.
When I agreed to do the keynote address for the Women In Sales Leadership Elevation conference, I didn’t realize how much I’d learn. I am truly grateful to the attendees and other speakers for sharing their experiences with me.
To learn more, you can watch my full speech here!