Although a number of COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted across Canada, policies allowing many employees to work in a hybrid capacity seem to be here to stay. And according to new research from Carleton University, this may be welcome news for women employees in particular.
The findings show that working from home has allowed women to feel much more comfortable during their workdays — and demonstrate how in-person workplaces can do better for all employees.
The research was presented by Farzam Kharvari, a PhD candidate in the Human-Building Interaction Lab at Carleton University, during the 5th International Conference on Building Energy and Environment.
In many workplaces, standard office temperatures were set with men’s average body temperatures and business attire in mind. Yet researchers have long known that women tend to prefer working in warmer temperatures, leaving many women to feel uncomfortable in the workplace as a result.
With the shift to remote or hybrid working during the pandemic, however, many women had the opportunity to design their home workspaces in a way that best suited their own personal comfort needs. Kharvari and collaborators were interested in learning how this shift impacted women employees, and whether there were any lessons businesses could learn as they move back to hybrid or fully in-person capacities.
To do this, the team carried out in-depth interviews with employees who worked in a remote capacity (often from a home office) during the pandemic. Their goal was to determine how these employees had changed their behaviour when working from home, and whether this impacted their productivity and mental well-being.
They found that when working from home, women employees controlled their own comfort by either changing the thermostat temperature, or adding/removing clothing layers throughout the day. Both of these actions may not have been possible in a traditional office setting — especially for workplaces that have a dress code in place.
The freedom to control their workplace temperature led to many benefits for employees, including an improved sense of comfort and mental well-being. As a result of this, workers also reported being more productive throughout their workdays.
“Our data indicates that improved thermal comfort at home is because of personal control over the thermostat and greater flexibility over what to wear during the workday,” the authors said in an article for The Conversation Canada.
“What we found strongly suggests that [remote workers] experienced many benefits, including increased productivity, less mental exhaustion, and greater thermal comfort.”
The results of this survey indicate several areas where office-based workplaces could do better for their women employees, especially as they transition back to some in-person capacity. For example, workplaces could consider changing their dress code policies to allow for layers or warmer clothing. They could also provide employees with personal heaters.
This survey is just one of a number of recent results that have highlighted the inequities women face in different sectors.
By considering the needs of all employees — and making sure that management positions reflect the diversity of employees in their workforces — employers can make their offices more welcoming for everyone.