Is async work the answer to workplace pressures facing women?

Woman working at desk, writing in a notepad, businesswoman

Article by Laura Hart, Interim VP of Marketing

Stress comes in many forms. Since the pandemic, we have seen a blend of different types of stress emerge in the hybrid workplace, such as burnout, toxic productivity and accelerated need for validation.

It’s clear that this shift to the ‘new normal’ of work has started to take a heavy toll on people––women in particular. Research by Mental Health UK reported that nearly one in four working women in the UK feel unable to manage stress at work.

Businesses must face up to this reality and seize this opportunity to make work better. To do this, they should design net-new channels and processes that both support women in the workplace, and simultaneously work to keep overall stress and burnout levels at a minimum. Embracing a culture of experimentation is critical when solving multifaceted problems like this. Part of that is testing out new technologies and realigning approaches to everything: from when and where your team works to how your team communicates.

Women are facing burnout

If managed correctly, stress can help to unlock our potential and uncover new strengths. If not, it leads to employee burnout. Toxic productivity isn’t new, but the Covid-19 crisis has certainly fuelled it to new heights. Whilst many people enjoy the convenience of working from home, this often comes at the expense of longer hours, increased stress, and a greater risk of burnout.

Additionally, the gender gap is continuing to widen in the aftermath of the pandemic, with women today facing an increased susceptibility to stress and burnout. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, the home-care burden for women is spilling over into work. As reported in the Independent, research from University College London shows that women who live with men continue to do the majority of the housework. Secondly, women feel a greater pressure than men to be digitally available, meaning that women who work from home often find themselves spread thin. Global market research platform Appinio reports that 46% of females feel more obligated to reply instantly to incoming messages and calls. One effective way of reducing the risk of burnout among female workers is through async video communication – recording and sharing content that is not happening in real-time and does not require users to be online simultaneously. This scalable and shareable format enables faster communication and allows for greater transparency, meaning that women have greater flexibility in their schedules, whilst also avoiding the disruption caused by non-essential calls and meetings.

Burnout can be fuelled by the need for validation. A recent Catalyst survey found that one in five women have felt overlooked or ignored by colleagues in video calls, supporting the idea floated by some experts that women need to be physically present to be heard. With working mothers being 50% more likely to prefer remote working than men, they are prone to a 50% lower rate of promotion than those working in the office, according to Harvard Business Review. It’s therefore a concern that women working remotely may fall further behind. Introducing asynchronous video into your organisation is one powerful tool for increasing visibility across the female workforce. With async, people can experience the human element of interaction – facial expressions, tone of voice and body language – as they would in person. Moreover, async video allows for women to be better seen by their colleagues, even when they are not physically present.

The power of video

At a basic level, async video enables easier and faster communication, giving women the freedom and flexibility to start and end on their own time. Sharing a quick async video as opposed to holding an inessential meeting helps to reduce time wastage and allows more time to create richer, better quality work, enhancing productivity but also reducing chances of burnout in the process.

This increased productivity can allow people to get better work done in less time, contributing to reduced stress and greater work-life balance –– something which was heavily disrupted by the pandemic. Business and salary review website Glassdoor found that two thirds (66%) of the 2,017 UK full-time workers they surveyed intend to make changes to improve their current work-life balance, and are looking to employers for a solution.

Experimenting with new technologies, practices, and workflows could be a solution to maintaining a better work-life balance in the hybrid world. Loom has trialled ‘No Meetings Wednesdays’ to give its employees a better balance and the ability to carve out meaningful focus time within their work days, as opposed to working less. Why Wednesday? A midweek unlock offers a natural break in screen time, live time, and the late-night “catch up” after a day of meetings. It allows for greater flexibility, ownership, and autonomy. MIT Sloan Management Report found that introducing a no-meeting day into the working week caused employee stress levels to drop by 26%, proving experimentation to be an essential tool in reducing workplace stress and managing employee burnout.

Async video can also combat the gender promotion gap, providing clear pathways that encourage women to grow into leadership positions. Due to the heightened visibility that async video provides, it’s a great tool to use for aiding progression. Typically, when you open your inbox or preferred chat program, you don’t tend to feel an energy transfer from someone else’s emotion. But with video, this becomes possible. Creating the space for women to be seen and giving them the right communication tools can encourage D&I initiatives to lift off in a way that’s organic and authentic.

While managing stress and beating burnout is the first step, we need to continue cultivating long-term solutions to workplace stress and how we can work better and deeper. Companies with the right set of technological tools and workplace processes will be better equipped to enhance productivity and support D&I initiatives, helping their employees maintain a better work-life balance in the modern workplace.