To retain current female workers and attract new talent, organisations must redesign their employee experience to include women’s lived experiences and preferences, according to Gartner.

An October 2021 Gartner survey of 3 515 employees revealed 65% of women report the pandemic has made them rethink the place that work should have in their lives.

Nearly 70% of women with children agree the pandemic has changed how they value certain aspects of their life outside of work.

“In a hybrid work design – where women are more likely than men to take advantage of remote work – they may suffer from leadership bias,” says Alexia Cambon, research director in the Gartner HR practice.

“Fifty-nine percent of women knowledge workers think in-office workers will be seen as high performers, and 78% think in-office workers are more likely to be promoted.”

An earlier Gartner survey of 2 971 business leaders shows 64% believe onsite workers are higher performers, and 76% say onsite workers are more likely to get promoted.

To recover from the adverse impact of Covid-19 and retain women in the labor force, Gartner recommends organizations pursue three strategies:

Allow Control Over the Workday to Avoid Fatigue

Gartner’s October survey shows women report lower well-being than men – 59% of women reported they feel tired before they even arrive at work, compared to 49% of men. Only 43% of women agree they have enough energy for leisure activities, notably lower than their male counterparts, 54% of whom agree.

Moving forward, the hybrid workplace will require new norms and codified behaviors to safeguard performance, well-being and engagement. HR leaders should work with other business leaders and managers to establish set collaboration hours where everyone in a particular region agrees to be available for synchronous collaboration. Similarly, time should be blocked for focused work and asynchronous collaboration.

“Nearly two-thirds of women have increased expectation for flexible work,” says Cambon. “Organisations need to create an environment that empowers and trusts employees to choose the work schedule that works for their needs.”

Heighten Focus on Equity in the Workplace

Across every industry, senior leaders are concerned about workforce engagement when some employees choose to work from home and others don’t.

This is of greater concern for women – Gartner data shows that women are more likely to want flexible work than their male counterparts. Yet, nearly half of remote female employees said they feel left out of activities and meetings that could enhance their career at least some of the time.

To ensure female employees’ careers are not negatively impacted, HR leaders should employ two tactics:

* Be intentional about in-person gatherings: Gartner research shows approximately 32% of women want their organisation to set a minimum number of days per year that teams must gather in-person. This approach helps senior leaders balance the scales and creates opportunities for women and individual contributors to collaborate.

* Move away from visibility-based management: Gartner research reveals that in a hybrid workplace, leaders who rely on visibility to manage are less likely to be successful. Instead, being clear about the outcomes to be achieved and providing autonomy to employees in deciding how to achieve them helps level the playing field between remote and non-remote workers.

Offer Fulfilling Work

Gartner data finds one of the most important retention attributes for women – exceeded in importance only by compensation – is the satisfaction they get from the work they do.

Gartner research found that while 65% of men reported they look forward to going to work, only 57% of women agreed. Over half of women (53%) reported the pandemic caused them to question the purpose of their day-to-day job, at a time when deriving purpose through work becomes even more central.

“Women are tired and due to the pandemic, many are lacking access to the re-energizing activities that provide personal fulfillment,” says Cambon. “In the absence of a life outside work, the pressure grows for work to be worth the burn-out.

“Employers must start redesigning work to be a unique value proposition in and of itself.”