In 2020, working from home became “the new normal,” with workers across all sectors figuring out how to do as much of their work as possible online. Long before COVID, sectors outside of public education began embracing remote work. A U.S. Census Bureau survey from 10 years ago found that remote work was growing everywhere except the public sector, where the percentage of remote workers remained low. In public education, that changed suddenly and dramatically in 2020. But what does the normalization of remote work mean for schools?
To think about retaining employees, schools need to think about retaining women, and particularly working moms. Women represent a majority of the workforce in schools, and educational services is among the most popular career path chosen by working mothers. Yet women also exhibit a stronger preference for working from home. One recent survey found that women placed “flexibility” at the top of their list of priorities when selecting a job, and ranked both “ability to work remotely” and “flexible schedule” on their top 5 needs from a job. Over 80 percent of working moms who opted not to work say they would have continued working if there had been an option to work from home.
While some roles within schools will continue to feel very rooted in the buildings, people will be looking for ways to inject more flexibility into their jobs. Educators, administrators, and service providers evolved and adapted to a remote working environment for over a year, and moving forward we need to consider where remote work may be able to continue beyond the pandemic.