In the past few years, in the wake of the pandemic the world of work experienced a seismic shift towards remote work arrangements and a positive lean towards a more flexible work culture was borne. Working from home became the new normal for millions of employees globally, offering unprecedented flexibility and convenience. However, a concerning trend has emerged recently- a shift away from remote work arrangements, which disproportionately affects women’s ability to invest more hours in their careers.

The pandemic forced companies to adapt swiftly, with remote work being the most viable option to ensure business continuity while safeguarding employee health. Remote work arrangements, which allowed employees to work from the safety and comfort of their homes, provided a lifeline during these challenging times. It was hailed as a solution that could bridge the gap between work and personal life, particularly for women juggling  their careers and home-lives. Women, who have traditionally faced the brunt of caregiving responsibilities, found themselves grappling with the demands of remote work, homeschooling, and household chores. However, the flexibility that remote work offered was a crucial factor that enabled many women to maintain their careers while managing these additional responsibilities.

Despite the proven benefits of remote work, some organisations seem to be reverting to pre-pandemic working models. They cite concerns over productivity, collaboration, and maintaining a company culture as reasons for the shift. This trend is particularly concerning for women, as it threatens to undo the progress made towards achieving gender equality in the workplace during the pandemic.

The implications of this shift away from remote work arrangements, which were initially embraced during the pandemic, are significant and potentially detrimental to women’s career progression: The loss of remote work options means women may have to return to rigid in-office schedules, making it more challenging to balance their professional and personal lives. The shift back to office-based work can lead to heightened stress and burnout, as women must navigate long commutes and re-establish childcare arrangements. Women who thrived in remote work roles may find their career trajectories disrupted as they transition back to the office, potentially leading to missed opportunities for advancement.

Not only that but the shift away from remote work could impact diversity and inclusion efforts, as it limits the flexibility that has allowed more women to participate in the workforce. Without remote work options, women may face the need to reduce their working hours or compromise on career opportunities, which can exacerbate the gender pay gap.

The shift away from remote work arrangements, once hailed as a beacon of hope during the pandemic, is a concerning trend that threatens to hinder women’s career progression and undo progress in gender equality. It’s crucial that employers recognise the value of remote work, not only for its practical benefits but also for its role in fostering a more equitable workplace. By supporting flexible work arrangements, including remote work, we can ensure that women have the opportunity to invest more hours in their careers while maintaining a work-life balance. This commitment will not only benefit women but also contribute to a more diverse, inclusive, and productive workforce.