Women are the perfect model for strength and multitasking if ever there was one. Does that make them superhumans? We think, yes! And any small business would really benefit from having them on board. But, COVID-19 has really put their resilience to the test.
Try as they may, while working from home, they end up treading water — having to manage regular operations at work and home along with 24/7 parenting. With the weight of the world on their shoulders, exhaustion, self-doubt, and loss of identity creep in. This has actually led to the US workforce losing 2.3 million women since February 2020!
Here are 8 easy ways your small business can support working women
- Hyper-personalize work formats to each employee: The fact of the matter is women end up being disproportionately held responsible for kids and home management. Until that equation changes, with schools closed and help unavailable, women should be given leeway to juggle office and home according to their convenience. For instance, some women will need to be available for child care for certain parts of the day, so they should be excused for work calls during that period. The simplest way to work out what suits each individual is by simply asking them what they need to be successful and stay in the job. A few ways in which your small business can be more flexible about allowing work-life balance for female employees are:
- Hybrid schedules - Today, most work can be done online. But, it still helps to come to the office a few times a week to connect with colleagues and be physically present. Employees should be allowed to plan in advance when they wish to work remotely and when they can come into the office.
- Job-sharing - If your employee is unable to work full-time, you can get two people to work part-time. In this way, they can together complete the work of one person and share salaries accordingly.
- Optional paid time-off - Be it managing a health emergency or just some time to destress, women deserve a break from work. They should be allowed to avail themselves these holidays, as long as your organization can map clear how and when your employees should compensate for it.
- Adopt technologies that help women stay more productive: Picture a woman surveying a howling dog waiting to be walked, a pile of dishes at the sink, excel sheets that need correction, and a phone ringing off the hook! To be able to manage all this, she would need more than 8-10 working hours every day. That’s where productivity tools such as eSignature software (Signeasy), scheduling tools (GanttPro), project management software (ProofHub), and time-tracking software (like Harvest) can really help. In fact, it's even better if these solutions integrate with your legacy software. Like how Signeasy allows users to approve documents with just a few clicks, from within other apps.
- Ensure women have a say in planning and decision making: If your small business has enough women in top executive ranks, you can rest assured that the interests of career-oriented women are well-represented.
- Set achievable goals: While it's essential to set big, hairy, audacious goals, there has to be some degree of alignment between capacity and what has to be achieved. Especially during the pandemic, where women are forced to manage competing priorities, as a small business owner, you should consider adjusting performance goals at an individual and organizational level. In this way, you can avoid employee burn-out.
- Offer workplace flexibility to men: Sounds counter-intuitive? It isn’t actually. Just think of it in this way, if men get to work from home (when they choose to) and maybe even avail paternity leave, their partners don't need to worry about managing all the familial and household responsibilities alone. Thus, by enabling spouses to share the burden, your small business allows women to show up guilt-free to work.
- Install managers who are empaths: More Gen Z and Y individuals join the workforce. This generation of workers will leave their jobs in search of “meaning”. Thus, it's becoming more and more important for companies to hire managers who not only have an analytical and strategic bent of mind but are also emotional and compassionate. By cultivating an empathic work environment, your small business will make it easier for women employees to seek and find support.
- Offer safe and appropriate child care options: Nowadays it has become a no-brainer to offer equal maternity and paternity leave. Aside from this, to ensure that working parent’s attention is glued to office work and not elsewhere, consider an on-site day-care center. Paid parental leave policy and flexible work options are also essentials.
- Have an optional offline workplace: Being stuck at home for months at a stretch, without any face-to-face meetings with colleagues and clients, can be nerve-racking for many. Also, many a time, it helps to be away from the everyday demands and cacophony of the home environment to be able to focus fully on office work. So, whenever the need to socially distance ends, women should be given the option to return and at least use a structured office area for a few hours.
The gender gap is still pretty wide. The workforce needs to make changes to the way things are done. And make these family-friendly changes long-term, COVID or not. That’s the only way you as a small business owner can assure that women will be empowered enough to keep following their career goals.
Let's rewrite the destiny of women in the workplace. Sign up for a free demo and see how Signeasy frees employees from the drudgery of paper-pushing, thus giving them more hours in the day to focus on more strategic tasks. Ultimately, your small business will have a more motivated, stress-free, and diverse workforce!