64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Women in the Workplace: The Optimization of Flexible Work in a Pandemic-Experienced World


64th ISI World Statistics Congress - Ottawa, Canada

Format: CPS Abstract

Keywords: career, covid-19, discrimination against women -, family, workforce

Session: CPS 39 - Official statistics: gender roles

Tuesday 18 July 8:30 a.m. - 9:40 a.m. (Canada/Eastern)


Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic initiated numerous forms of flexible and remote work arrangements in the corporate world, perceptions of the concept of work are irrevocably changed. While a strong preference for flexible work persists across relevant industries, the option to work flexibly is particularly important to women, closely impacting their productivity and workplace satisfaction. As women often play a leading role in domestic, childcare, and caregiving activities, prioritizing the availability of flexible work arrangements is essential in enabling women to achieve a sustainable balance between work and family. This paper discusses the existing types of flexible work arrangements, the advantages and limitations of these arrangements, and how both technological and sociocultural advances may improve the future of flexible work for women.

In Singapore, the female labour force participation rate has seen a steady increase over the past decade, yet some 260,000 women remain outside of the labour force and could be encouraged towards employment with optimized flexible work arrangements. After the pandemic triggered a massive experiment in remote working arrangements, the Ministry of Manpower implemented flexible work arrangements as a permanent feature of the workplace and encouraged other employers to adopt similar measures. Through open and innovative approaches, there is a wealth of potential for the future of flexible work that remains to be uncovered, even as the vast majority of employed women presently engage in some form of flexible work. It is therefore of much significance that Singapore has committed to enacting standardized guidelines for employers to consider such arrangements fairly and thoroughly, so that the benefits of flexible work may be experienced to a greater degree. Best practices for offering and evaluating these arrangements and plans to extend its voluntary coverage should be carefully enacted and monitored for their benefits in the long-term.

It is important to note that in certain instances, the availability of flexible work arrangements may paradoxically increase the number of hours that women spend working, leading to burnout, and possibly quitting. Analysis done across thousands of German workers found that greater autonomy led to increased numbers of hours worked, stemming from cultural beliefs in a competitive society. As expectations rise for telecommuting women to engage in domestic and childcare labour, they may find themselves exhausted and less productive at work. Before the pandemic, a stigma often accompanied women who chose to utilize flexible work arrangements and may yet persist as others without family responsibilities return to the office at relatively higher frequencies. Amidst other important caveats, flexible work remains as an arrangement with much room for optimization.