This rapid assessment study examines how female working professionals adapted to the hybrid working model during and after the pandemic and explores the perceived benefits and challenges of hybrid work for this segment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought hybrid working models into the spotlight. Hybrid models offer flexible working options, especially for women and provide more autonomy in how they use their time. While several studies in the past two years look at perceptions and trends around hybrid work, most studies thus far capture insights from ICT-intensive sectors. While hybrid work models have the potential to expand employment opportunities for women, there is a lack of data and insights on the current state of hybrid work adoption among women, across sectors and regions. This rapid assessment examines how female working professionals adapted to the hybrid working model during and after the pandemic and explores the perceived benefits and challenges of hybrid work for this segment.
Data for the study was collected through phone and online surveys. The sample size for the study consisted of 400 working women, of which 150 were working in a hybrid mode at the time of the survey. A case study of a BPO company based in rural Uttarakhand that provides the hybrid work model to its employees helps throw some light on the current challenges and potential benefits of hybrid work models in rural India.
Findings from the survey suggest that the option to work in hybrid mode and ease of transition vary by women’s geographical location, seniority levels, and sector of work.
- On average, smaller organisations prefer more daily in-person attendance, while medium-sized organisations prefer the fully remote option and larger organisations offer hybrid models. Further, women in senior positions are more likely to be given the option of working in a hybrid model.
- Older women (33-55 years) are more likely to take up hybrid work.
- Over two-thirds of the sample reported an improvement in the management of personal finances since transitioning to hybrid work, which could be attributed to a drop in expenditure on commute and other expenses.
- For an overwhelming majority of hybrid workers (89%) saving time on commuting is the most important advantage of the hybrid model.
- Gap in technological skilling continues to remain a challenge for workers transitioning to hybrid models, which can hinder women’s effective participation in hybrid workplaces: nearly a third of the women in the sample report difficulty in adapting to new technology used by their organisation for hybrid working are from the technology-intensive sector.
- Disparity of resources at home as compared to the office set-up is a major disadvantage for those based in non-metropolitan areas (55%).
Since hybrid work is a relatively new phenomenon in India, the model is in its nascent stages. Organisations in hybrid-friendly sectors can provide hybrid working options to help women employees contribute to the workforce more efficiently. Pay and evaluation parity for hybrid workers, especially women–and creating fair and equitable promotion and growth structures can ensure women’s careers advance at the same pace as their male counterparts. Strengthening infrastructure provision for employees in terms of high-speed broadband, co-working spaces, ICT such as desktops/laptops/smartphones, etc. is a key enabler as well.
Further, there is a need to include hybrid working arrangements in existing labour codes and regulate working hours, mandating fair pay, and strengthening legal safeguards for hybrid workers, especially women, at an organisational level. Future efforts in this regard can focus on bridging the data gap and building evidence-informed use cases for hybrid work in the medium and long term – as certain industries, geographies and functions may be better suited to transition to a hybrid mode at scale. Further research is also required to understand how such flexible working options may have an impact on other dimensions such as women’s health and well-being and career progression.