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Millennial Women Want Remote Work, But Many Fear They'll Miss Opportunities If Not in Office, According to Report

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As companies start to map out their return-to-office work plans, many millennial women are feeling conflicted about the pros and cons of working remotely, according to a recent survey by theSkimm.

Of the more than 1,600 participants in the survey, theSkimm found that nearly two-thirds of millennial women view remote work as a priority, including 43% who said remote work is very important or extremely important moving forward and 22% who said they would no longer consider working for an employer if work-from-home wasn't an option in the future. TheSkimm defined millennial women as ages 25 to 40.

Though remote work isn't an option for all employees, an estimated 20-25% of the workforce could work from home three to five days per week without any loss in productivity, according to data from McKinsey & Company. When looking at workers who could work from home at least one day a week, that number increases to 40%.

"The most obvious benefit of remote work options is flexibility," theSkimm's co-CEO Carly Zakin tells CNBC Make It. "With all the demands that women have faced in the past year and a half, working remotely may seem like the better alternative because it allows millennial women and millennial moms to create a schedule that works best for them and their families."

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Zakin explains the "pandemic brought to light that the true 9-to-5 no longer exists, especially for working women who are doing the bulk of household work while navigating careers."

In the United States, 3 in 5 caregivers are women. For those balancing child care and work, mothers are three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for housework and child-care duties during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a 2020 report from Lean In and McKinsey & Company. As a result of the flexibility provided with remote work options, women with child-care needs are 32% less likely to leave their job if they can work from home, compared with women with child-care responsibilities who don't have access to remote work, according to data from Catalyst, a nonprofit that focuses on building equitable workplaces for women.

But even with all of the benefits that remote work can provide, theSkimm found that two-thirds of millennial women also believe they will miss career opportunities by not being in the office and 40% said they feel more pressure to go back in the office if they know their male colleagues are.

"We've been thinking a lot about what company leaders can do to ensure that everyone is on a level playing field," says Zakin. "There's a lot, none of it is clear cut, and it's only getting more complicated."

While all businesses are different in terms of size, leadership style and company goals, Zakin says that a good starting point to even out the playing field for all employees is for company leaders to create "a performance model that fairly defines and evaluates performances, regardless of time spent in the office."

"Companies should get a sense of where their team is to get an idea of what their teams are asking for and where there are opportunities to support them," she says.

Tara Van Bommel, a statistician director at Catalyst, emphasizes that regardless of whether a business is operating under a fully remote model or a hybrid work model, company leaders should always take a "remote-first approach" when running an organization so that everyone has equal opportunities.

"This means that we all operate like everyone is remote, regardless of whether I'm in the office and you're at home," she says. For example, if there is an in-office meeting about a project and one employee involved in that project is working remotely that day, Van Bommel suggests that the manager of the project steps in and says, "Let's get on a quick call and bring in [X] because we'll want to have this conversation together."

As employers and employees continue to think about the future of work, Danielle Weisberg, co-CEO of theSkimm, says that one of the best ways for employees to negotiate a more flexible work option is to prove how working remotely could benefit not only them but also the company.

"Do your research on why it can actually help the organization," she says, while adding that you also want to discuss any "pain points you are solving for" by working remotely. For example, 77% of millennial women surveyed by theSkimm said that remote work is important to them because they won't have a commute time and 53% said it's important because they're able to work more efficiently from home.

By speaking up about the benefits of remote work, Weisberg says you might notice that "there will be a broader impact" in your organization as other people could have similar feelings about remote work and flexibility.

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