Not retiring: confidence and the long-term remote worker

Normalising different forms of flexible working will help a wide range of people be able to thrive over time.

Working at home

 

There has been a lot of interest over the years in normalising remote working. workingwise.co.uk did an interview this week with Dr Christine Grant from Coventry University who spoke of the huge benefits – despite some challenges – of remote working for people with disabilities or neurodivergence. She said there is a need to destigmatise flexible working requests and to open up conversations between line managers and those who might want more flexibility. That might mean hybrid or remote working in cases where people are not working on the frontline. Stigmatising flexible/remote working can have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable, she stated.

Despite the changes since Covid, remote working is still not well established, even though it is nothing new. Many have been doing it for years, even decades now. In the early days, it often came about as the result of a flexible working request. Flexible working legislation was initially just for carers and parents and it was seen as a bit of a favour. Many parents who did it felt not only second-tier [a feeling often confirmed by lower pay than they would have got in the office], but also that they had to overwork in order to show that remote working was a benefit to employers – in case it got taken away. There is still an element of that mentality around.

The long-term impact, though, is large because if you treat remote working as a favour and sideline remote workers, their confidence can be affected, however good they are at their jobs. It can be difficult to move jobs if you work remotely because there are still not enough new jobs advertised as open to remote or hybrid working, although there are considerably more than there were before Covid. But it is not just the practical barriers that hold remote workers back. The confidence barrier also has an impact and often combines with other issues that can have a negative impact on how you view yourself or how you feel the world views you. Age, for instance, can be a factor. If you have spent a couple of decades while the kids are young working remotely you may face worries not only about finding another remote or hybrid job or returning to an office environment, but also concerns that you may be rejected because of your age.

The only way to get around this is to normalise remote and hybrid working more, to include remote workers as much as possible in the workplace and to speak to them about how they feel about all of this. You are no better or worse at your job because of your location or because you face certain logistical constraints that mean working from home makes life a whole lot easier. Work is essentially a list of tasks and many can be done anywhere these days.



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