Although 47% of employed adults in the U.S. said they’ve worked from home at least some of the time over the past year—and almost all said they appreciated aspects of working remotely—hybrid work is not always the best of both worlds, according to a new Deloitte report.
Despite the lack of commute, enhanced comfort, reduced chance of illness and better focus, only about one-third of women who are hybrid workers in the tech, media, and telecommunications industries are satisfied with their overall work-life balance—something that more than half of their remote and in-person counterparts claim, the report said.
The predominant hybrid mode is posing more challenges for TMT women than those working fully in-person or fully remotely, according to Deloitte.
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Women in the TMT industries who are working hybrid full-time are more likely to report feeling stressed and burned out. Fewer than four in 10 rate their mental well-being as good or extremely good—well below their remote counterparts—with those who work fully remote rating their productivity, motivation, emotional well-being and work-life balance as high.
Deloitte’s research shows that a majority of TMT women globally are already working in a hybrid manner (51% versus 43% of non-TMT women), and another 39% of TMT women are working remotely compared to only 29% of non-TMT women.
Why hybrid work is proving challenging for some women in TMT
There is an adjustment period when transitioning to hybrid work as employees and employers learn and adapt, the report noted.
“For employees, hybrid (work) comes with the burden of juggling two workspaces, two different kinds of daily work patterns, and household routines that change from one day to the next,” the report said.
A significant challenge is that 86% of TMT women with children reported that they bear the greatest responsibility for child care in their household, arranging for care that varies from day to day. According to the report, this can be “emotionally exhausting” for many. Further, hybrid work also involves the considerable challenge of balancing flexibility with corporate expectations.
“If the choice of in-office days is left fully to workers, workspace usage and in-person collaboration may suffer,” the report said. “On the other hand, if a company mandates which days to work in the office, employees may resent the reduced flexibility.”
Diversity and inclusion should be a consideration when it comes to hybrid work, the report recommended, adding that one plus is that some of the big tech companies regard flexible working arrangements as a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining diverse employees.
Hybrid work can lead to ‘proximity bias’
Hybrid work can also lead to proximity bias—that is, favoring employees who put in the most face time at the office, according to the report.
“If employers don’t guard against proximity bias, hybrid work could reinforce inequities,” the report said.
For example, two findings raise red flags: A majority of hybrid-working TMT women (52%) said they’ve experienced exclusion from professional activities such as meetings, decision-making and informal interactions versus 33% of remote TMT women. Further, the research found that nearly half (45%) of hybrid-working TMT women said they have not had enough exposure to leaders versus 26% of remote TMT women.
“Hybrid work may make it more challenging to be in the right place at the right time: When an employer schedules in-person events, hybrid workers, especially those with dependent-care responsibilities, may find it difficult to adjust their already complex schedules,” the report stated.
How leaders can address hybrid work challenges
The Deloitte report offers a number of suggestions for how companies can address the challenges of hybrid work to ensure that it lives up to its promise. The suggestions include:
- Ensure hybrid workers have effective technology tools and connectivity: Consider “hybrid schedulers” that workers can use to share where they’ll be working and to coordinate with colleagues for in-person collaboration.
- Balance flexibility and predictability: Transparency of schedules and locations can be key to ensuring workers won’t miss out on interactions by being in the “wrong workplace at the wrong time.”
- Foster fairness and inclusion: Employers should ensure they’re treating all workers, regardless of work mode, equitably. One leading practice is to provide hybrid ways to attend events, ensuring hybrid or remote workers aren’t left out. Organizations should also cultivate dynamic leadership capabilities geared toward managing hybrid teams, including empathy and adaptability.
- Help workers manage family needs: Recognizing that child care is a competitive issue, some large TMT companies have been innovating new child care benefits, such as providing stipends, extending caregiver leave, subsidizing backup child care and tutoring, and helping parents locate vetted on-demand child care.