Business

Work/life balance the biggest challenge as women make their voices heard

The initial buzz around home offices and Zoom calls has given way for considered thought and commentary around work, life, and the delicate balance between the two
Roseann Kelly

WOMEN in Business, you have made your voices heard!

The inaugural ‘Your Voice’ survey, which was distributed to 5,000 of our members, proved an opportunity to take stock of a rapidly changing landscape.

Yes, Covid-19 has uprooted the workplace, perhaps forever. But it is only now that its lasting effects are being truly felt and understood. The initial buzz around home offices and Zoom calls has given way for considered thought and commentary around work, life, and the delicate balance between the two.

It is also a pressing issue for our members. When asked to pinpoint the biggest challenge currently facing their business or career, 32 per cent cited work/life balance. Almost one in three are struggling to maintain that sense of stability in a world where the very notions of office and family now live under the one roof.

Boundaries have blurred. Any time spent between clocking off and winding down – time once filled with commuting and childcare and evening coffee – is lost to emails and admin that slipped on to the back-burner in the name of Zoom.

The working day has stretched. And many of us who are working from home do so in environments that are not what I would call ‘fit for purpose’.

You’ve no doubt seen the viral videos and funny cat filters, but beneath all this is an under-current of acute stress. If the life/work see-saw was beginning to tip towards the latter pre-Covid, this pandemic has left people feeling less like they are working from home, and more like they’re living at work.

And it is not just the much-debated balance between work and life that featured in our survey; Covid has redrawn expectations entirely, with over 67 per cent of those surveyed predicting another 12 months before a return to the normal office routine. Eleven per cent even went so far as to say ‘never’ when asked when they believe businesses will reach pre-Covid levels of office attendance.

Surreal, yes, but certainly not very surprising. Not when Hughes Insurance commits to remote working on a permanent basis, or when Nationwide advises its 13,000 UK staff to ‘work anywhere’. Not just home, or the office, but anywhere. A flexible scheme for the Covid era. And one other businesses can draw from as the quest for greater balance between work and life continues.

The landscape is changing. But let this be an opportunity for real, tangible change. In the ‘workplace’ and beyond. The truth is that the economy needs gender diversity to achieve the triple bottom line – profit, environment, diversity – that all innovative, progressive companies need.

Our aim is to continue ‘Your Voice’ as a quarterly survey. To capture the views and sentiments of our 5,000 members in 2021 and beyond, ensuring that Northern Ireland’s female entrepreneurs and business leaders have their voices not just heard, but amplified, so they may force the spotlight on timely and often challenging issues.

:: Roseann Kelly is chief executive of Women in Business. To find out more information on upcoming events, including how to register, visit www. womeninbusinessni.com or email info@womeninbusinessni.com

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