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How to build belonging for women in remote work

Cubo writersOct 11, 2022

The sense of belonging is the most significant driving factor for team performance and individual productivity. But in an increasingly digital society that sense of belonging can deteriorate quickly, especially for women in the workplace. 

Remote work has been a game-changer for women in the workplace, providing endless benefits that have helped women enjoy much-needed work-life balance. 

Yet, despite these benefits, women are still most likely to experience hardships in a remote work environment or hybrid workplace. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, data collected by the Italian National Institute of Statistics showed that of the 101,000 people to lose their jobs as a result of COVID-19, 98 percent were women. Further illustrating the fact that women are more likely to be squeezed out of the workplace in a remote work office, the UN released data showing the extent of how unequal the workplace is despite efforts to make it more inclusive.

Women, however, are a vital resource to the workplace, completing 10 percent more work than their male counterparts, according to data from Hive. Therefore, creating a workplace where their sense of belonging is prioritized could be the key to unlocking a more productive team. 

Is remote work good for women? 

A woman in blue denim jacket using MacBook proThe short answer is yes. Despite the move for equality in the household and family, women are still more likely to participate in domestic tasks — like taking care of kids and completing household chores — than men. Data supports these statements, with the UN showing that women are three times more likely to carry out unpaid care and domestic work than men. 

If this is the case, a typical nine-to-five that requires extensive travel won't be as appealing as remote work, where women don't have to spend time doing tasks unrelated to their work to be at the office. 

Because of their responsibilities, women are more likely to appreciate the benefits of remote work, driving them to improve their output, productivity, and performance. 

However, your company won't be able to leverage the benefits of remote work for women — and men — because these dissipate when there's no sense of belonging.

How do you create a sense of belonging in a workplace? 

Belonging is one of the building blocks of teamwork in the workplace, which is critical to reducing wasteful expenditure and poor performance.

If you can foster belonging for women in a remote work environment, you can be well on your way to experiencing exponential growth in your strategies. This is how you do this:

Create policies to empower women

Policies that affect women will positively impact the entire workforce and not just women.

Increasing parental leave time and workplace flexibility will be driving forces. These policies will enable working mothers or women taking care of elderly relatives to feel like valuable members of the team rather than a burden.

As companies embrace some differences in the sexes, consider menstrual leave. This type of leave shows that you understand the challenges female staff members may face.

Understand and make contingencies for normal interruptions

Working from home means women are more likely to face some interruptions, whether that's from pets, kids, or a spouse. This kind of interruption shouldn't be vilified but understood. Rather than creating policies that discourage interruptions, enact policies that make contingencies possible.

For example, instead of requiring employees to have their cameras on throughout a meeting, allow staff to disable their cameras momentarily so they can deal with unexpected interruptions without causing any disruption to the flow of the meeting.

Focus on output rather than availability

Beyond interruptions, working from home also gives employees the flexibility to focus on other tasks. This may mean a lunch break that allows them to complete household chores or deal with emergencies, but these are often discouraged because managers and leaders want employees to create a traditional workday at home. The consensus in this strategy is that employees should always be at their desks when working remotely. The foundation of this premise stems from being available at all times. While being online and available to respond to colleagues is crucial, employees can do that from anywhere, especially if they're using interactive SaaS tools like Cubo.

Rather than require remote employees to limit themselves to the restrictions of a typical nine-to-five, allow employees to structure their day with some guidelines. 

Women, especially those who are moms, will often work harder and ramp up their productivity to maintain these perks. Because being able to structure their day in a manner that prioritizes output means they may be able to reduce interruptions and maximize working hours. 

Give women control and autonomy

The overarching message of giving employees control over the structure of their day is: to give them greater control and autonomy.

Often, managers who don't have employees in their eyesight throughout the workday resort to micromanaging or encouraging peer-to-peer managing, where workers are incentivized for observing their colleagues' work for the purpose of reporting their failures.

This managing style stifles remote work's most significant benefit: flexibility. It also stifles belonging because employees aren't doing what is required of them out of desire but out of duty.

If you give employees more autonomy, they'll feel like valuable team members, although their input may only be directed at their work.

Praise characteristics that provide value

In a remote work environment or virtual workspace, appreciating employees' successes linked to KPIs is challenging enough. Therefore, showing appreciation for the characteristics that change the company's culture and other intangible results will be just as challenging

But sharing appreciation for -- and incentivizing -- soft metrics like being active on team social channels, sharing kindness, being online, and participating in virtual events will encourage others to follow suit. If all employees embrace these traits, a sense of belonging in the virtual workplace will follow suit.

Use Saas tools that maximize communication

It's easier to allow employees to set their hours if they're able to be available when a colleague needs to reach out. The more informal this type of communication is, the less likely employees will feel stigmatized for having an interruption from a child or pet.

Apps like Whatsapp or Messenger are great forms for informal communication but don't embrace the robust needs of professional communication like Microsoft Teams or Cubo. The latter enables employees to have work-related and casual conversations on a whim, share critical files, join and create video conferences, and -- most importantly -- cannot be used for personal communication. 

The future of belonging in remote work

As remote work and flexible work are entrenched into business practices, we see belonging as being the descriptor for a workplace with all the benefits of remote work with none of the downsides. 

Remote teams collaborating on CuboIn the not-so-distant future, belonging will be one of the driving forces for acquiring top-tier talent for your company. 

Because an environment where women can thrive in the workplace will undoubtedly make your company more desirable to all genders, as the building blocks of a women-focused strategy is the precursor to an inclusive workplace.

"Belonging" will encapsulate a positive, high-caliber, team-orientated virtual workplace and will be the antithesis of the toxic workplace many employees are leaving.