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How flexible working is key for improving diversity in tech

Muslim woman working from home, flexible working

Diversity has been a historical challenge for the tech industry.

For example, a recent survey from mThree of 270 US business leaders found that 68 per cent felt there was a lack of diversity in their tech workforce. Nevertheless, female representation is on the rise and flexible working, such as freelancing, will be key for encouraging more women to join this profession. Here Ashmita Das, CEO of open talent platform Kolabtree, discusses why flexible working is key for improving female representation in tech.

If you were to search the internet for ‘tech’ jobs, you may be overwhelmed by the variety of job roles that exist. For example, Prospects.ac.uk lists over 25 jobs in its ‘information technology’ section alone, including cyber security analyst, information systems manager, IT consultant, software engineer, and web developer. Considering also that businesses in most sectors can benefit from some form of tech nowadays, it’s clear that the opportunities are many.

However, the tech workforce has historically lacked the same diversity. For example, a recent report from Tech Nation revealed that for every 100 people working in a tech job in the UK only 25 are women, an alarming statistic. Nevertheless, if we look at the broader picture, diversity is continuing to improve, and I don’t see reason for doom and gloom. On the contrary, there are now more opportunities than ever for aspiring female specialists.

New opportunities

The pandemic transformed the way that businesses operate and how many of us work. Remote and hybrid working became necessities, while companies’ HR policies and attitudes towards recruitment shifted to keep up with the evolving landscape — changes that show no signs of stopping. This shift has required companies to invest more in software and communications technology, and many are digitising at an increasing rate.

The opportunities for tech professionals arising from this shift are twofold. Firstly, it means that tech skills are now in very high demand, as IT experts are needed to develop, set up, implement and maintain these systems. Secondly, the fact that companies are now more equipped to work with external, remote professionals means that tech freelancing is a strong career option.

Freelancing offers an alternative route into the tech industry. As well as this, it provides several advantages that can help attract more and more female tech professionals and help them advance their careers.

Newfound flexibility

Control is a powerful motivator that’s important for life satisfaction and fulfilment, so being able to determine your own work and work-life balance is an attractive proposition. Interestingly, over 90 per cent of 542 freelance scientists that we surveyed as part of a social science research project said that flexibility was highly important to them. Freelancing gives people complete control over their schedule, pay, and the projects they work on, so only they are in charge of their careers.

On the other hand, traditional employment — having a permanent role in one organisation — can be very inflexible in terms of hours, so finding time for commitments outside the workplace can be a challenge. For example, if children need dropping off at school each morning, a typical 9-5 schedule can make it harder to accommodate. Meanwhile, freelancing gives skilled professionals the ability to work when and for how long they like and take on other responsibilities that life presents.

Career progression

Raising a family is one of the most rewarding things in the world, but it can sometimes be a hurdle for career progression. One example is parental leave, which often involves a complete severance from work for several months. Returning to work afterwards can be daunting and, when they do, some employees find themselves working a reduced number of hours. According to research by Ipsos Mori, almost three in ten women (29 per cent) thought taking maternity leave had a negative impact on their career, while less than half the number of men (13 per cent) noticed the same effect following paternity leave.  Therefore, there is a clear gender gap in perceptions towards the impact of parental leave.

Meanwhile freelance female tech specialists have the option of continuing to work during those first nine months, at a time and frequency that suits. Furthermore, when the usual parental leave period is over, the freelancer can increase their hours and take on more projects — although working and having a young baby will require some adjustments!

Building up experience

Another advantage of freelancing is having the power to expand your repertoire beyond what’s possible in a full-time permanent job. Traditional employers train staff to become skilled at their specific roles, for example maintaining IT systems in healthcare facilities or maintaining cybersecurity in financial firms. Therefore, in-house experts are often only exposed to the relevant skills required for that role, with limited opportunity to diversify.

However, freelancers can carefully select their projects and gain exposure to a wider array of experience. For example, a computer network expert that’s worked for schools has the freedom to work on a completely different project, setting up or improving a system in another field entirely, or maybe work for a start-up. The new projects are still within the freelancer’s skillset but will raise new opportunities to expand their reach.

Getting started

For aspiring freelance technology experts, becoming an external consultant can be as simple as registering with a platform and creating a profile. Once registered, the freelancer can upload a CV detailing the various projects they’ve worked on and set a desired rate. From, there, they can bid for projects that appeal to them and submit a proposal on how they would offer their services.

As an open talent platform targeting scientific and technology specialists, Kolabtree has over 15,000 experts registered across 175 countries. Its tech specialists have experience working in fields including cyber security, computer and data security, computer networks, wireless communication, computer software, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Why not take the first step on your freelancing journey today? Simply visit https://www.kolabtree.com/, click on ‘Join as expert’, and start browsing projects.

Ashmita DasAbout the author

Ashmita Das is co-founder and CEO of Kolabtree, the world’s largest platform for freelance scientists. Ashmita founded Kolabtree to level the playing field in science, by helping small and medium-sized businesses access the skills and knowledge that they need and has been instrumental in its rapid growth since its founding in 2015. The platform now has over 15,000 freelancers on its books.


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Attitudes towards flexible working must change – it must become the norm

desk-with-laptop

Article by Niki Addison, Customer Success Director at Babble

17 years ago, just four months after the birth of my daughter, I had to return to work from maternity leave.

I requested to move to a four-day working week at the company, but it was rejected. I had to go back five days a week, work long hours and deal with a strenuous commute.

When my second child was born 12 years later, I was already working four days a week at a tech company, which prided itself on flexibility and its people. My productivity wasn’t affected by the shorter working week. Since then, I’ve learned that in most cases, shorter working weeks have little to no impact on productivity.

My taking on a managing director role four days a week, without affecting the business, changed how I approached recruitment. I soon realised that giving opportunities to the right person for a role was more important than where, when, and how they worked.

All I look for is a smart, focused and responsible person. I just don’t understand why a business wouldn’t go for someone like that. Regardless of where and how many hours they work, their business impact is going to be huge. Those who are working shorter weeks will generally be productive because they don’t have the luxury of going at a slower pace. While we tailor a role to fit in with less hours, this doesn’t mean less responsibility, just a slightly different scope of work If, as a business, you don’t think like that then you’re missing out on incredible talent.

Flexibility also provides you with the benefit of a happy workforce who know they never have to ask if they can take two hours out of their day for their child’s nativity play or sports day, for example. At Babble, staff don’t need to ask management – they just put it in their diary and go. We trust that person will pick up any tasks later in the day, no questions asked. Client meetings can be moved, and I trust my team to pick up their work at the right time. If they were ill, they’d need to move the client meeting – so what’s the difference? I trust them to judge what simply cannot wait what can be moved. If I don’t trust them to do their job, why are they in the job in the first place?

As a mother, and speaking from experience, any other option leads to guilt. You either have mum guilt, or the guilt of knowing you’ve snuck off to watch the play or attend sports day. Neither sits well with me personally. Our way, the right way, keeps talent in organisations and industries and builds trust and honesty with staff.

And this isn’t just for working parents. If an employee who doesn’t have children wants to change their working patterns, it’s an equally valid request. . My only consideration is what impact it has on our business, and can we facilitate this? If we can, then we should, because the colleague’s wellbeing is the most important consideration.

The pandemic has brought about a lot of talk about four day working weeks, hybrid work and more. However, we’d fostered flexible work pre-pandemic and weren’t forced into a major change when it came to flexibility. Of course, there was an impact when we were all made to work from home full time, but not in the same way as most businesses across the country.

However, the wider working world is going to have to get ready for this flexibility now people are returning to offices.  Employers must begin to anticipate questions and know how their wider industry is dealing with similar questions. It wouldn’t sit well with me if the business I worked for didn’t accommodate this flexibility.

In fact, if your industry doesn’t believe in flexibility, people will leave and find something they can do on their terms. If employers are going to be tough about this, they’ve got to accept they will lose people. And that’s going to impact their industry over time. Flexibility is the answer to retaining and attracting this talent.

It is true that technology has made it harder to switch off in some ways, but the flipside is that it has also made flexible working possible. Technology is only going to become more adaptable, and it would be strange if our working patterns didn’t keep up with this evolution. With the right parameters in place, technology should be something which empowers you to live the lifestyle you choose, rather than a sap on your energy and time.

When I made the request to work flexibly, 17 years ago, deep down I knew it’d be rejected. I know I don’t ever want to be in a position where I have to turn down a similar request from a colleague – I know what it’s like to be in their shoes.


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How can leaders create positive workplace environments

female leader, women leading the way

Article by Megan Barbier, Vice President, People & Culture

While International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women’s accomplishments, we also must stop to remind ourselves of the importance of getting more women recruited into the technology industry by creating an inclusive workplace.

All too often, businesses see creating a positive and inclusive workplace environment as an afterthought, and though companies are making great strides in shifting away from this attitude, they can always do more.

For organisations within the technology sector, improving female representation must become a priority that is actively pursued rather than just a token gesture. The process of shifting the gender balance to include more women can seem overwhelming. Move the needle by weaving diversity into all aspects of the employee experience: talent acquisition, development and recognition. Providing equitable access to training, projects and other resources, coupled with structured guidance on their professional development, businesses can better support the advancement of women in technical roles.

Businesses must also reflect on and acknowledge the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion across every aspect of their organisation. Diversity and inclusion are key in driving business innovation and creativity. To help women thrive in professional technology environments, leverage the power of both ERGs (employee resource groups) and male colleagues to build a strong community and promote ally-ship. By creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, organisations can tap into a wide range of perspectives and unique ideas, whilst unlocking creativity – all of which add immense value to critical decision making.

It comes as no surprise that for many organisations and their employees, remote or hybrid working has become the norm as a result of the pandemic. Though this has created an era of flexible working that we’ve never seen at this scale before, it’s also led to a lack of shared experiences in the workplace. Whether that’s getting coffees at lunch with colleagues or in-person meetings – the workforce is no longer as connected as they once were. It’s crucial that businesses reimagine their culture and values by focusing on inclusivity, in order to create the best possible environment for all employees to thrive, wherever they choose to work.

Megan BarbierAbout the author

Megan and her team drive the global people and culture strategy. She has 20 years of experience leading HR functions for large and emerging technology organizations. Prior to Jumio, she led international people operations for Wrike.

 

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How to get a remote working role in tech

By Verónica Miñano, Head of Talent Acquisition, Kwalee

woman remote working on video conferenceOne of the great benefits of working in the tech industries, and something that has been brought into even greater focus during the global COVID-19 pandemic, is the potential in these roles for remote working.

With tools like Slack and Zoom already commonplace, there are many opportunities for tech-savvy professionals to build their careers beyond the traditional office setting as employers become increasingly open to remote applicants.

This includes ourselves at Kwalee, as we have made a commitment to embracing remote work indefinitely following our productivity while working under restrictions related to the virus.

So if you’re looking for a role in tech but you believe that your future lies outside of the traditional office setting, here are my top tips for identifying and securing the right remote-working opportunity for you!

#1 Identify your role

It almost goes without saying, but even within tech, some roles are better suited to remote work than others.

In our experience of transitioning to remote work over these turbulent past few months, we have had some individuals and teams whose roles rely more heavily on in-person collaboration and they have been extremely keen to return to our office.

Others, meanwhile, have had very little trouble adapting and have enjoyed the productivity and comfort of working from home. This is why we have begun our foray into permanent remote work by opening only certain vacancies to remote candidates, and you will find across the board that there is more openness to working from home when it comes to certain positions.

Think about the tasks you are expected to perform every day in your job and whether you would be able to perform them as effectively in a remote setting. If you conclude that this isn’t the case and yet remain committed to pursuing remote work, you might consider switching to an adjacent discipline requiring a similar skillset, but with more opportunities for working from home.

Speak to friends or colleagues who have made the transition to remote work to learn more about how the nature of their work changed when they moved away from the office and consider whether you would be willing to make such changes yourself. An employer will want to know you have given serious consideration to this transition, so show them you are ready to take responsibility!

#2 Find a supportive employer

Just as employers expect certain things from their remote-working employees, you should find a company that will be willing to support you -- wherever you make your workspace.

For instance, while continuing to grow our team throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we have been making sure to send any necessary office equipment to team members who need them, to make their temporary workspaces more comfortable.

Just because you’re not working at the office, you should not feel disconnected from the rest of the team! As a parent, I am 100% understanding of why remote working holds such appeal for some people and we want team members to feel valued wherever they are based.

Make sure that your employer is of this mindset and is prepared to give you the necessary support to do your job.

#3 Seek inspiration and start a side project

This one is particularly relevant if you are not currently working in the industry you’re pursuing a role in, but seek out role models who are currently working in your ideal roles and see how they use platforms like LinkedIn.

Look out for any insights they share on how they got into their positions and see what you can learn from them.

It will also be a big help to have a side project that’s more aligned with your desired field, if you’re looking to change careers. For instance, when hiring game designers we are always just as keen to see what they have made in their spare time as well as any formal training they have done.

This is even more applicable when it comes to remote roles, since having worked on something in your own time shows that you can be productive and motivated outside a traditional working environment!

Our team at Kwalee is growing all the time and you can find all our open positions, including our remote working opportunities, here.

Verónica MiñanoAbout the author

With more than a decade of HR and recruitment experience, first in the engineering industry and more recently in gaming, Verónica Miñano has built Kwalee’s Talent Acquisition team from scratch and has overseen the company more than tripling in size in less than four years. She is passionate about how different personalities and skill-sets can be best combined to create a harmonious and creative working environment.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


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Could post-pandemic work practices create a better work-life balance for women?

Muslim woman working from home, flexible workingWhile questions surrounding the way we work and the future of work have been around for a while, the pandemic has unquestionably kicked things into overdrive.

Practically overnight, businesses all over the world found themselves accelerating remote working initiatives which typically took months to plan and implement at scale, and turning what they thought wouldn’t work into a necessity to keep doors open and jobs secure. Several months down the line in this unique situation, and we’re learning more about flexible work arrangements and how working from home full-time or part-time might affect that coveted work-life balance for the better, particularly for women in tech.

Flexible working for women in tech

According to a 2019 study by WISE, women made up just 16% of IT roles—a shocking figure by any standards. While there are a number of factors feeding into that low number, traditional notions about gender and childcare remain one of the most harmful to women not only carving out a career in tech, but seeking to advance in their field and do so without the expectation that they ‘choose’ between family and having a career. And one simple way to help women manage both is through offering flexible working options.

This is by no means news, of course. Before we’d ever heard of Covid-19, flexible hours and home working were reported to be the most wanted benefits for women in tech, however this wish stood alongside legitimate concerns about preconceptions attached to these two perks in particular. The flexibility stigma is, in a nutshell, the discrimination or negative attitude towards employees who work flexibly. This, in turn, has a negative impact on career progression and work-life balance, as women might not feel comfortable taking advantage of these working patterns for fear of being viewed as ‘less’ than a male colleague who does not work flexibly. The result of that could be anything from women being overlooked for a promotion or pay rise because of this flawed perception of flexible working, to women being forced out of their workplace or industry because of the unevenly distributed demands of home life, or working longer hours in a move to compensate for that same skewed perception.

Prior to the pandemic, fewer women than men actually had flexible or remote work as benefits, with working mothers feeling the brunt of that stigma more than any other demographic. But this year has seen the lines between work and home blurred almost beyond recognition for all of us as we work, live, play, exercise all under one roof, and sometimes in the same room. While we’ve found ourselves separated from friends and colleagues, there’s a real feeling of community that emerges from this challenging experience. We’re collectively isolated, in a way, and that’s fostered a greater sense of understanding across organisations. From C-Suite down, the majority of people in your organisation now know what it’s like to try and balance a productive work day with the likes of childcare and home schooling, and we all know what it’s like to try and get through a video call while handling the demands of a child (or two, or three) desperate to get your attention.

The struggles of working parents are more widely understood than ever before, with everyone from our colleagues to board members doing their best to balance it all. There’s more visibility than ever on the issues faced by women in tech, and that’s an opportunity we can’t afford to waste. The global shift to remote work has allowed us to step back and get some perspective on traditional, and in some cases antiquated, ways of operating, and really look at what’s working, what’s not, and how the barriers women face professionally can continue to be lifted.

Equality starts at home

It’s now a well-documented fact that women typically put significantly more hours in as caregivers than their male counterparts, even when working from home, and that’s a problem. Even beyond standard business hours, if women are carrying the lion’s share of childcare, home schooling, and housework duties, burnout is inevitable and that impacts on your ability to deliver at work and be truly present at home. It’s no longer enough to simply offer ‘equal pay for equal work’—that’s the bare minimum. We need to push for more widespread acceptance and awareness of the lifestyle differences that divide genders, often leaving women at a disadvantage, not only on an organisational level, but individually.

Even beyond childcare responsibilities, providing a culture where equal opportunities are available for all staff is simply the right thing to do. A woman should be entitled to take advantage of the same perks as her male counterparts without fear of reprise, whether that’s in her professional development or just becoming subject to gossip. Handling remote teams working different hours is only going to increase, so getting to grips with how you manage it now will only put you in a stronger position in future.

As employers, it’s up to us to lead from the front and champion not just equality across the sexes, but the initiatives that help foster that effectively. It’s our responsibility to provide employees with the resources necessary to learn about the kind of inequality we see in our industry, and what they can do individually to tackle that and build a more diverse, more inclusive workplace.

Beyond the pandemic 

In a post-pandemic landscape, we need to encourage more employers to really look at the benefits they offer, and ask themselves if they’re inclusive enough to support employees from a diverse range of backgrounds. Businesses doing that now will reap the benefits that come from empowering women to reclaim their space in the tech industry, including improved innovation and bridging the digital skills gap by tapping into talent that would have been overlooked without flexible work opportunities. Looking ahead, the truly successful employers out there will be the ones who questioned what they were doing because of convention, and what they needed to do to help their employees—and their business—truly thrive.

About the author

Nabila Salem is the President of Revolent, one of the world’s leading cloud talent creators. She has extensive leadership experience in professional services, tech recruitment, and marketing based in the UK and USA. Nabila has always played an active role in encouraging, supporting, and promoting diversity in the workplace–so much so that she was recognized in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 List in 2019.

 

 


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Flexible working: how did the pandemic shift attitudes towards flexible working?' with Dr Nancy Doyle - She Talks Tech podcast

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'Flexible working: how did the pandemic shift attitudes towards flexible working?' with Dr Nancy Doyle

Flexible working: how did the pandemic shift attitudes towards flexible working?' with Dr Nancy Doyle - She Talks Tech podcast

Today we hear from from Dr Nancy Doyle, the CEO of Genius Within and a group of incredible leaders:

  • Karen Mattison MBE, the Co-founder of Timewise
  • Graham Joyce, the Co-founder of DuoMe
  • Laura Barrowman, the Group CIO at Credit Suisse
  • And Victoria Knight, the Strategic Business Director at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence

The panel will be discussing what is next for flexible working post pandemic and what the new normal may look like.

They will focus on the cultural shifts needed to ensure flexible working is successful, how companies can adapt and the challenges and opportunities these new ways of working may present.

If you want to find out more about our esteemed panellists – you can connect with them on LinkedIn

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‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2020.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts – and the first three episodes are now live!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.


Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender bias

Why COVID-19 will bring more opportunities to employees at work

Rachel Gawley, CTO, Whitespace

Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender biasThe COVID-19 crisis has created a global uncertainty within the workplace, leaving many employees concerned about what this might mean for their jobs in the future.

In April, it was expected that one in four employers would make redundancies within their business, and in May after the UK’s furlough scheme was put in place, HMRC reported that 6.3 million people had been temporarily laid off by 800,000 companies. Despite these unsettling times, the current pandemic could be a gateway to a more flexible future which will unlock a myriad of opportunities for employees at work.

Since the majority of organisations have been forced to work from home, it has been essential for employers to put their trust in all of their staff. As a result of this, there has been an increase in employee empowerment, motivation and drive to succeed. Also, with significantly less travel time, many employees have had the flexibility to work wherever and whenever to suit their lifestyle at home. This allows employees to be more efficient with their time, therefore suggesting that remote working may be the way forward and that offices are a thing of the past. With another wave of mass redundancies expected soon, this may highlight an individual’s ability to transfer their skills into various industries, offering them different career pathways.

Optimising flexible working at home

Businesses have been accessing the positive impact of remote working with the possibility of implementing it as a long term solution. Remote working has allowed employees to optimise their workload due to the flexibility of working from home. Firstly, giving employees more freedom such as less working days and hours will not only increase efficiency and productivity, but it will also increase employee morale. It will give employees the flexibility to manage their workload in a way that’s most efficient for them, in terms of their chosen lifestyle, as well as the feeling of being trusted by their employer boosting their morale. Recent research suggests that working from home makes employees 35-40% more productive, resulting in a 21% increase in profitability. Also in normal pandemic-free times, 82% of remote workers have a reduced stress level due to feelings of gratitude, inducing positivity in the workplace.

Transforming employees' work ethic and shifting behaviours in the workforce will help to re-connect them to the business, keeping them motivated with their work and invested in the company's goals. In addition to this, removing workplace politics and noise interruptions in the office will increase employees performance as the number of distractions will be reduced. With remote working employees will have more time for their social life, focusing on their families and personal interests, as well as improving their general mental health.

Working anywhere and everywhere

Remote working eliminates the barrier of being limited to job opportunities based on geographic locations. This enables employees to be adventurous with their career choices and more ambitious with job applications. In turn, it also enables employers to hire a more diverse, talented workforce, to bring in a wider range of skills into the workplace. Reducing the need to travel and commute not only allows employees to apply for jobs based in any location, but it also reduces stress and unneeded costs, with the average individual saving 13% more as a result of working from home.

In addition to this, remote working opens the possibility of travelling the world whilst working, giving individuals the opportunity to explore around the world without the worries of having to take time off work or not completing their job well. Working abroad acts as a gateway to network and meet new people, giving individuals an opportunity to escape and start a new adventure. With scenic views, a new culture and a relaxing ambience, working abroad can be the perfect way to maximise productivity and have a fresh, positive attitude to work.

Introducing AI and programming to the remote workforce

Finally, artificial intelligence and programming will positively impact remote working and productivity by providing a portal of new opportunities for employees. Workers will be able to utilise this advanced technology to manage and accelerate the time spent on complex tasks. One example of this is AI’s ability to analyse data and present findings in a more simplistic form. This level of intelligence will allow jobs to run more smoothly which will increase efficiency in the workplace.

There is a concern that robots and artificial intelligence oppose a threat to jobs, however, they will actually replace tasks. For example, AI is significantly quicker than humans at analysing calls, data, completing market research and sales calls. This means these tasks will be completed at a more rapid pace, allowing employees to utilise this information to be more efficient and better at other tasks. Therefore, employees can use their skills more wisely on bigger tasks, or even encourage employees to diversify their jobs and branch out to new occupancies, developing a range of new skills.

With the myriad of benefits surrounding remote working, implementing it permanently into the workplace seems like the perfect long term solution. From a happier, more motivated workplace to the flexibility it offers employees. Remote working will act as a gateway to a more productive, efficient workplace as well as significantly increasing employees mental health

Rachel GawleyAbout the author

Dr Rachel Gawley is Chief Technology Officer of Whitespace and Programme Director of the Emergent Alliance. She has over 15 years’ hands on experience with technology and software engineering working in startups, academia and the big four. Her focus is on emerging technologies and mobile solutions. She is a technology leader experienced in building and nurturing teams to create meaningful solutions to complex problems. Her previous roles include CTO of a MedTech company, head of R&D focused on mobile tech, Research Fellow, and most recently leading the creation of a corporate venturing process in a technology consulting company.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


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FlexTech - flexible working in the digital age

Muslim woman working from home, flexible working

Article provided by Jenny Mowat, UK Managing Director, Babel PR

It’s a fact of life that we will all need to work out of the office at some point.

Everyone’s lives are just full of things to do, whether it’s work itself, or an electrician coming around, or even just trying to beat the rush hour crowds on your commute. In ages gone by, this was made a lot harder due to slow internet connections, non-instant communication, maybe even having to rely on…the post. However, in the pervasive digital economy, the ability to work from almost anywhere is almost a reality. Despite the technological and infrastructure advances, there continues to be some hesitancy from employers to support remote, or even flexible working, on a regular basis.

Other countries seem to have this perfected – whether it’s the Nordics and their trust that the work will be done in whatever way you do it, or maybe it’s the Netherlands where you often prioritise time away from your desk in the day to spend time with your colleagues. This different approach to work/life balance has led to businesses reporting higher levels of productivity and work satisfaction than in the UK.

I know that flexible working is sometimes an ask for employers, with some expressing fears of opening the floodgates with everyone demanding the same agreement. When coming back to work with a young family, I knew what my ideal role would look like, but I had next to no hope in finding it. I wanted something that would primarily offer a flexible working environment, something that would challenge me, have a team I could learn from and a chance to trust my gut. I believe all these areas should be available for everyone, not just those returning to work from maternity leave. But this wasn’t what I found when I started looking for a role both in-house and agency side. But that doesn’t mean to say it can’t happen.

Babel, for example, champions the use of the technology to enable flexible and remote working.  We work in a service industry, so we need to have to an always-on culture and mentality to a certain extent. Particularly when working with clients across different time-zones to ours. Practically this can make flexible and remote working more complex, but through technology services such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, Trello, Google Docs or just plain old Email – it all adds to the ease of collaborative working, from any location or time. To ensure this all works in reality though, you need a culture built on trust.

Flexible working can offer so much more than opportunities for parents to spend time with their children. We need to think about those who want to invest more time in their favourite charities, sports teams, even hobbies. Enabling communications through tech ensures that ideas can still be bounced off each other, thoughts can be shared, and updates can be given even when not physically with your teams. These are all points that apply to all, not just mothers and fathers with young families.

Ultimately, employers need to accept that a one size fits all approach isn’t always the best way. Realising this and listening to employees’ needs and wants will bring about happier, healthier and more loyal teams. And who doesn’t want happier people?

Jenny Mowat, UK Managing Director, BabelAbout the author

Jenny has over a decade of experience driving international and UK specific award-winning campaigns. Jenny is responsible for expanding Babel’s UK B2B client base across the technology, media and telecoms sectors. Her client experience includes Dell EMC, Darktrace, Verint, CA Technologies, Citrix, Experis and Premier Inn, delivering integrated campaigns (spanning PA, PR, social and marketing) with impact. She is well versed in adapting themes to meet different audiences – from verticals, enterprise business to consumers – and works closely with her teams to ensure all KPIs and expectations are exceeded.


Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender bias

Gender bias in employment benefits holding back women in tech

Woman typing on laptop, flexible working, gender bias

Gender bias in employment benefits is holding back women in tech, according to new research from Mason Frank International.

The report found that there are key gender differences in desired benefits and actual benefit entitlement in the tech industry.

Flexible and home working are the most-desired employment benefits among women in the tech industry, but the stigma attached to these is having a negative impact on work-life balance and career progression.

These findings are now being discussed as part of a wider issue of female representation in the technology sector, with employers being challenged to review not only the employee benefits they offer, but also attitudes towards those benefits throughout the business.

Over 2,500 tech professionals were surveyed in Mason Frank’s study, of which 30 per cent were female.

When asked which benefits they desire most, 22 per cent of female respondents indicated home and flexible working were important to them, compared to only 19 per cent of men. This is significant when compared to actual entitlement, where there’s a great disparity between the genders.

Despite women having a strong desire for home working, only 58 per cent are offered this employment benefit, compared to 64 per cent of men. There’s an even greater difference when looking at flexible working hours; the benefit is enjoyed by 54 per cent of men, compared to just 42 per cent of women.

As women are more likely to be juggling caring responsibilities, totalling at around 60 per cent more unpaid work a week through parental or elderly care, the chances of career burnout is far greater in females, signalling a greater need for flexible working.

While entitlement to benefits like these is disproportionate across the genders, there’s also a sentiment that flexible and home working creates more work for others, or will lead to negative outcomes.

This is not only reducing the number of people making flexible working requests, but also potentially holding back those who do, with working mothers the largest segment who’d felt this negative impact.

These attitudes are at odds with research around flexible working, where employees have shown increased engagement and productivity by working remotely. Nevertheless, it offers an explanation as to why more and more women are going part-time, self-employed, or even taking career breaks.

With Mason Frank’s research also showing that flexible and home working would make a woman more likely to accept a job role, not offering these benefits to all staff could be handicapping gender representation even at the initial intake stage.

Speaking about the research, Zoë Morris, President at Mason Frank International, said, "It's incredibly important to drill down on all things that could inhibit an employee's development."

"Particularly in the tech sector, where female representation is so low and the skills gap is so vast."

"Exploring feelings towards benefits and entitlement is a good way to measure what support employees want against what they're actually receiving."

"It's disappointing to see that fewer women have access to flexible working than men, even though it's a benefit they prioritise higher."

"But given the attitudes held towards women who work flexibly, particularly working mothers, it's unsurprising that some choose not to use it even when they have the option."

James Lloyd-Townsend, Chairman and CEO at Mason Frank International added, "I think the most eye-opening part of this research is the negative attitudes held towards flexible working."

"Clearly employers need to take steps not just to offer these benefits to all staff members, but to educate them on why they're availabe and how they can help the business."

"Only when employees feel supported in working flexibly, and have no concerns around how it will impact their career progression, will they truly being to flourish."


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Harness the agile workspace and empower your users

 

flexible working, working from home

Flexible working isn’t just about being available for doctors’ appointments and Amazon deliveries.

Utilise the agile workspace to drive your users’ creativity, productivity and collaboration, and help them achieve a better work-life balance.

The complex challenges that face modern businesses are changing the ways in which we communicate and collaborate. The recent National Work Life Week highlighted how lines continue to blur between work and home life, and provided the opportunity for both employers and employees to focus on well-being both at work and at home.

How can your business deliver a meaningful work-life balance that fosters creativity and innovation, increases productivity, and gives your users an opportunity to recharge away from the daily bombardment of emails, meetings and conference calls?

Moving On From Flexible Working

Part of the solution to achieving a good work-life balance lies in flexible, efficient working enabled by an agile workspace. But enabling an agile workspace means more than just giving users laptops and sending them off into the world. As a business owner, it’s important to think about what a truly agile workspace can mean to your business, your users, and your clients.

Many businesses seek to provide flexible working for their users. Flexible working is a trend that’s been around for some time now; hot-desking and being able to work anytime, anywhere is highly desirable for employees, and employers who want to retain and recruit the very best skills where competition is fierce invariably seek to adopt this agile working style.

However, we believe that the core principle of flexible working – delivering users the same experience, wherever they are – needs to be revisited if businesses really want to tackle today’s complex challenges head on.

Introducing the Agile Workspace

At Six Degrees, we believe that the agile workspace represents the future of work. Delivering users the same experience wherever they are is great, but it fails to address a key aspect of our working lives today: that we have different working needs at different times.

Say you’re a Project Manager, and you’ve been tasked with presenting a complex project plan to your company’s Board of Directors. In order to prepare, you’ll need to engage with a number of stakeholders who will be actively involved in the project execution. But then you’ll need time to go away and really focus on creating a concise, compelling presentation that provides a comprehensive overview of the project execution plan, its risks and its benefits. And finally you’ll want to deliver an excellent presentation to the Board, some of whom may be in different offices or even continents.

Each of the three discrete phases of this project will require its own unique working structure in order to achieve the best results. Simply grabbing a laptop and smartphone and ‘getting on with it’ is not enough: to deliver effectively, it’s essential to equip yourself with tools that empower you to work efficiently and appropriately, anywhere.

Harnessing Technology to Inspire Humans

The latest communication and collaboration technology empowers users to work in a manner that’s most appropriate to their immediate requirements. It empowers users by recognising that they need time to communicate and collaborate, but they also need time to concentrate and contemplate.

So how can this technology help you deliver your presentation to the Board? Let’s look at each of the three phases one at a time.

When you’re working with other stakeholders to create the project execution plan, you’ll need to work collaboratively, making dynamic changes as the parameters of the project are fleshed out. Agile workspace technology facilitates collaboration across multiple channels, allowing you to introduce video calls to instant messaging chats, embed ‘click to call links’ in documents, and use all available collaboration methods in a straightforward, intuitive way.

Once you’re ready to create the presentation, you may want to get away from the office to work from a space that suits your personality, drives your creativity, and gives you time to focus. The agile workspace allows you to achieve the same ubiquitous experience in all locations and across all device types. So whether you’re at home, in a shared working space, or at your favourite local coffee shop, you have access to the required tools in a consistent manner.

And when you’re presenting to the board, agile workspace technology delivers conferencing facilities through a single platform that provides a seamless experience no matter where you are, or where your audience is located.

Each of these three phases have their own unique requirements that need to be addressed. However, an agile workspace solution should also be seamless and continual. Simplicity is key – users should be able to access the tools they need, when they need them without unnecessary complexity, and with a consistent user experience throughout.

Empower Your Users and Drive Innovation

The agile workspace will help your business get the best out of your users no matter what their location, function, age or experience. It will help them work better collaboratively, whilst giving them the time they need to focus away from the office.

And it goes beyond basic flexible working to help your business deliver a meaningful work-life balance that improves employee wellbeing, which is so important in today’s fast-paced working environment. In 2016-17 12.5 million working days were lost in the UK due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. This serves to highlight the importance of initiatives such as National Work Life Week, putting in stark relief the need for all businesses to take tangible steps towards improving work-life balance for their employees.

The way we work is evolving at an unprecedented rate. Adopting an agile workspace will help you improve employee wellbeing whilst meeting today’s complex business challenges head on, driving competitive advantages and empowering you to achieve your business’ strategic goals.

About the Author

Matthew Brouker is Group Product Director at Six Degrees, a leading cloud-led managed service provider that works as a collaborative technology partner to businesses making a digital transition.

Six Degrees works collaboratively and builds long-term partnerships through exceptional services that match its clients’ needs. It continually innovates the right solutions to enable clients’ brilliance.

For more information, visit www.6dg.co.uk