Women quitting jobs due to flexibility issues: How should companies cope?

Priyanka Jain

The number of women workers who have quit their jobs has been steadily growing over the past few years. Surprisingly, over the last 5 years, more than 20 million women have withdrawn from the workforce, while some have altogether quit their jobs and some have simply stopped searching for work. Reasons include flexibility issues and burnout. In fact, the latest study by LinkedIn involving 2,266 participants in India revealed that the stigma surrounding career breaks and flexible working are holding women from getting back to work and asking for more flexibility.

With the pandemic blurring the lines between professional and personal lives, flexible working can turn out to be a big boon for women who have to constantly juggle professional and personal responsibilities. Research has also shown that working women in India are twice more likely to have to select between career and childcare in comparison to men. Also, with the economy slowly recovering from the effects of the pandemic, more and more young people are required in the workforce to sustain the recovery. A workforce void of women will find it extremely difficult to keep up the growth, especially in such a big country. Keeping these considerations in mind, it becomes imperative for companies to devise new ways to foster flexibility and stop women’s decline in the workforce.

Why does Women’s Participation in the Workforce Matter?

The resilience and growth of an economy are largely dependent on women’s participation in the workforce. It boosts productivity, income equality and increases economic diversification in addition to other positive outcomes. Studies and research have shown that the global GDP can increase significantly if women are made an equal part of the workforce as men.

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Also, companies can vastly benefit from employing women and increasing leadership opportunities. It can increase organisational growth and effectiveness. It is being estimated that organisations with 3 or more women in senior leadership functions, perform better in every dimension of organizational performance.

What Steps Companies can take to Promote Flexibility and Retain Women?

While a lot of companies are using traditional blunt instruments like paid time off and pay hikes as ways to reduce attrition, but they aren’t enough. It is important to listen to the needs of women employees and create customised strategies to meet those needs. Here are some of the ways companies can be more creative and bold in retaining women employees:

Embrace Flexibility

Lockstep careers and traditional work environments have always been a challenge for working women. Since women have to shoulder different responsibilities like caring for children and family members and even managing household chores, a work environment that lacks flexibility can quickly prove to be a hindrance to their life. However, giving them a free floating day every week which they can take any time might help them in a big way. Other than that, allowing women to work remotely all or some of the time, and at variable hours can have a big impact on employee satisfaction. To make sure that the business needs and employee preferences are met, companies can use HR tech solutions like HRMS that provide the right technology, training and collaboration tools to stay productive irrespective of where a person is working from. Dell is one such company that offers flexible work schedules to all its employees by utilising different online platforms and collaboration tools.

Increase Engagement

Though flexible working options can work wonders for women, they may get deprived of mentorships and workplace connections. If companies are not able to provide the required resources to maintain engagement among women remote workers, the chances of losing them increase significantly. That’s where again, human resources technology can play a vital role. Through different forms of communications enabled by technology, co-workers can stay in touch with each other and even share documents, files, etc. instantly with one another. Also, with the help of innovative HR technology, companies can offer women employees the opportunity to develop their career and growth trajectories in a systematic way over time. All of this can positively impact engagement and let women feel more in tune with the organisation’s goals and the job they perform every day.

Let them readjust to return to Work

The pandemic has taken a toll on most employees and many have taken leaves to cope with the increasing stress and anxiety of the situation. It is essential for companies to readjust their processes to help women return to work and update their skills to match up to the industry standards. Flipkart, one of the renowned e-commerce platforms in India evaluated employee readiness with the assistance of a combination of one-to-one discussions, team meetings, AI-enabled chatbot conversations, surveys and regular check-ins, before reopening their offices. This made sure that employees are given the required time to manage child care, relocation, elder care as well as other responsibilities.

Redesign office as per their needs

Many women are not able to rejoin office physically as they have to manage responsibilities at their home and as well as office. New mothers should be allowed to bring their newborn in the office and a separate room can be allotted for the same. Pregnant women can be given combortable chairs and even assigned room for privacy.

Final Words

It has become essential for companies to get creative with their solutions to provide a flexible response to women employees. With women’s participation in the workforce falling, organizations have to identify what opportunities are there in their workplace, and what type of flexibility offers the best help to women employees.

Priyanka Jain, Co-Founder & Creative Director, uKnowva- 360 degree HRMS Automation

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