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Work-From-Home Scheme Helps Even Things Out For Women Workers – NPO

Work-From-Home Scheme Helps Even Things Out For Women Workers – NPO
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

As many employers and companies shifted to work-from-home scheme due to health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees saw it as a positive change and they were feeling largely productive.

In a survey conducted by the non-profit organization Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE), the most popular positive change was the access to flexible work arrangements. This was according to  56% of female workers and 61% of male employees surveyed amid the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

“Other popular changes were availability of paid leave, access to personal protective equipment, and technical support to work at home,” the survey results read.

The PBWCE is part of a bigger initiative of the Australian government called Investing in Women. As per its official website, the PBCWE “is made up of influential businesses that are large employers who will take the appropriate steps to improve gender equity in their own workplaces and to influence businesses, both in their supply chains and other large businesses, and to also become better employers of women.”

The survey, which was conducted in December 2020, sought the responses of 300 male and 300 female employees of private firms all over the Philippines aged 18 to 60 years old.

The survey was the second conducted by the PBWCE with regard to the well-being of workers as the pandemic continues. Based on the survey, 75% of respondents said they have equally been or more productive since the pandemic, compared to 67% in the first survey done in May 2020.

The results of the survey showed that productivity of a third of women respondents was impacted by both household and caring responsibilities.

“For men, slightly more than a third reported their productivity was affected by household responsibilities in December 2020, and 15% reported their productivity was affected by caring responsibilities,” the PBWCE study showed.

As for the remaining 25% of respondents, they said that they had lower productivity and attributed it to anxiety brought about by the pandemic.

Despite the respondents’ approval of work-from-home arrangements, the PBCWE acknowledged that some companies are not amenable to this type of arrangement.

“However, there were still many firms not offering popular forms of support, such as flexible work, personal protective equipment, full and partial paid leave, technical support to work at home, COVID-19 testing and treatment, and job training and re-skilling,” the PBCWE said.

“In some cases, workers may not have been aware that popular forms of employer support were available, as firms were not actively communicating these policies to workers,” it added. “For example, only 62% of firms [were] offering flexible work arrangements and 53% of firms with paid leave policies had communicated these policies to their workers.”

Innovation

PBCWE executive director Julia Abad told “Agenda” on One Newson Oct. 15 that the pandemic offers a bit of an opportunity to even things out between men and women employees.

She said employees were feeling largely productive in a work-from-home setup  as women were getting a bit more help on the domestic front while men were able to do more.

Abad explained the women were taking the flexible work arrangements to balance responsibilities at home and at work.

In an interview with The Philippine STAR OneNews.PH on Monday, Oct. 20, Abad said the “positive change” that respondents saw in the work-from-home arrangement was attributed to how they could swiftly respond to domestic concerns, mostly tending to their children who are into distance learning.

“Companies are looking at the work-from-home scheme [as it is] partly an innovation that it is good for their employees, but also because they have no choice. Even the traditional offices that really prefer face-to-face, walang choice (there’s no choice). You want your workers to be productive, then you will let them work-from-home,” Abad said.

Asked if she sees the productivity of women employees improving even when the pandemic is over, Abad said it remains to be seen.

“But I think for those families that have seen improved sharing of responsibilities, depending on what the impact has been on their household, hopefully it will still have a positive impact, then maybe the setup will continue until later,” she said.

“Definitely that’s what Investing in Women and the [PBCWE] is trying to encourage…a more equitable distribution of domestic responsibilities across the family,” she added.

Abad also noted that there is still a gender bias even when it comes to the work-from-home scheme, particularly on the societal expectations on men and women.

“The societal expectations of women are that you are the one that takes care of the home, you take care of the children. If you are going to work, it should not be at the expense of your domestic responsibility,” she explained.

“For men, that's not emphasized as much as your ability to earn. I guess the pressure for men to earn is higher than for women to earn. For those men who actually like to stay at home and do more chores versus earning, the reverse happens,” she added. “There's a little bit of bias against those men who are perceived to be not very masculine, not fulfilling your responsibilities as breadwinners. It's still looked down upon.”

To break these societal expectations, Abad said the mindset of where genders belong needs to change.

“We hear that the women’s place is not in leadership circles or not tough decision-making positions but only at home or having a support role. I think that perception needs to change. And to help change that, we have to make sure that there are more women in leadership circles, in taking on office responsibilities that are part of core operations and not just in support roles,” she said.