Women who work mostly from home risk seeing their careers stall now workers are returning to the office in large numbers, according to Bank of England (BoE) economist Catherine Mann.
She stated that while office interaction was essential for advancement in companies, many women were still relegated to working from home.
Ms Mann stated that it was a particular problem for mothers who were experiencing school disruptions and difficulty accessing childcare.
Rishi Sunak issued a warning about young people’s careers earlier this year.
The chancellor stated that he doubted his banking career would have been successful if he had begun in virtual meetings, and that being in the office helped him develop skills.
Ms Mann, a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates, stated that online communication could not replace the spontaneous office conversations that were important for recognition and advancement in many workplaces.
She told an event hosted by Financial News magazine: “Virtual platforms are way better than they than they were even five years ago. But the extemporaneous, spontaneity – those are hard to replicate in a virtual setting.”
Due to difficulties in obtaining childcare and disruptions in schooling caused by the pandemic, many women continued to work from home, whereas it was easier for men to return to the office.
“There is the possibility of two tracks,” she explained. “There are people on the virtual track and people on the physical track. And I’m concerned that we’ll see those two tracks develop, and we’ll pretty much know who’s going to be on which track “She stated.
Ms Mann previously worked as an economics professor and chief economist at Citi and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development before joining the Bank of England in September.
Businesswoman Justine Roberts, co-founder of the Mumsnet website, agreed that not being in the office could harm women’s careers. However, it was up to businesses to be aware of this.
However, she told the BBC that the flexibility of working from home was a huge benefit to women, particularly mothers. New ways of working had eroded presenteeism and the long-hours culture.
“Let’s not forget that one of the best things to come out of [the pandemic crisis] is the ability to work flexibly,” she said, emphasising the importance of flexibility for mothers juggling childcare and school runs.
According to Danielle Harmer, chief people officer at insurance giant Aviva, companies must establish a framework to ensure that people working remotely are not treated as an afterthought by company executives. Otherwise, she claims, career opportunities and the gender pay gap will suffer.
“If organisations leave it up to their employees, I believe there is a risk that those with caring responsibilities, who tend to be female, will work from home more frequently, and we will look back in two years and wonder, “Wait a minute, why has the gender pay gap widened?” Why, for example, are female promotions slowing down? “She stated.
“It’s taken a long time for us to make progress on issues like the gender pay gap, and I think it would be disastrous if we went backwards.”
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said British businesses reported that on average 60% of their staff were fully back at their normal place of work. About one-in-six employees are estimated to be using a hybrid model of working, the ONS said.
However, the proportions vary greatly by industry. According to the ONS, 34 percent of professional services employees work in an office, 24 percent work entirely from home, and 35 percent work a combination of the two.
Separate ONS data showed that in late October, a slightly higher percentage of male workers than females worked from home for at least some of the time.
Previous ONS research found that women were more likely than men to say that working from home gave them more time to work and fewer distractions. Men, on the other hand, said working from home helped them come up with new ideas, whereas women said it was a hindrance.