Only one in 10 women working from home plan to return to the office, despite warnings from the Bank of England policymaker Catherine Mann that they risk damaging their careers by staying away.
A survey of female home workers for the Telegraph by the pollster FindOutNow also found that just 6pc believed they were missing out on opportunities because of the pandemic shift to remote working.
Ms Mann said this week that being visible in the office is extremely important for career progress and suggested the changes risk creating a “two-track” workplace where those who are present get ahead more quickly. She suggested that women are likely to be the chief losers because of the pressure to care for children.
Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “There clearly must be risks that people working from home are treated as out of sight and out of mind if their managers and leaders continue to come in.
“The big thing we don’t know is whether managers and leaders will also be working at home and therefore will take other cues for who gets the interesting work and the opportunities, who they talk to.
“We can design good quality flexible work, but we haven’t done it very well in the past. If past experience for part-time workers and particularly women is anything to go by, there are clear risks.”
Men are slightly more likely to consider homeworking damaging to their careers, at 9pc compared to 6pc of women, according to FindOutNow.
Chris Holbrook, chief executive at the polling company, said: “Women seem intent to continue to work from home despite Catherine Mann’s warning.”
Abi Adams-Prassl, a co-founder of the Covid Inequality Project and academic at Oxford University, said: “One of the things that companies are going to have to be very cautious about is how they think about performance metrics and monitoring.
“On the plus side, flexibility at work and permitting women who might face more domestic care constraints to actually get into good jobs is a kind of a positive.
“But if these jobs that are being created which are more flexible and have more working from home put you permanently on a different track, that’s problematic.”
Work from home revolution ‘will hurt women’
Women risk being left behind by the shift to flexible working as home and office workers are divided onto “two tracks”, a Bank of England rate-setter has warned.
Catherine Mann, a member of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, said being visible in the office is “extremely important” for career progress as women hold off a return to workplaces.
She warned that homeworking stops the “proverbial water cooler conversations” that bosses believe boosts innovation as the careers of office staff benefit.
“The extemporaneous spontaneity – those are hard to replicate in a virtual setting and so there is the potential for two tracks,” Ms Mann said in a webinar hosted by Financial News.
“There’s the people who are on the virtual track and people who are on the physical track. I do worry that we will see those two tracks develop and we pretty much know who’s going to be on which track, unfortunately.”
Ministers and City bosses have warned of the career impact of staying away from the office, particularly on women and young workers. Research also suggests that women working from home have borne the brunt of childcare duties during the pandemic as schools were shuttered.
A survey by the Office for National Statistics revealed that women did more than three hours of childcare during the first lockdown compared to two for men. Two-thirds of women with a school-aged child reported doing homeschooling during winter restrictions compared to half of men while female workers suffered a bigger productivity hit during lockdown.
Ms Mann warned that “physical presence does matter”, with 15pc of the workforce still doing their jobs only from home.
She said: “We still see that women are not going back to work to the extent that men are going back into the workplace… this very much is related to the caregiver aspect.”
The rate-setter said childcare and home duties “disproportionately fall on the shoulders of women”.
Almost one in five firms plan to move to permanent homeworking, while more than a third are resisting the shift, according to data from the Office for National Statistics published on Monday.
Baroness Minouche Shafik, head of the London School of Economics, warned in September that homeworking will worsen the gender gap in the office as women seek more flexible working.
Baroness Shafik said: “Homeworking does provide opportunities, but I’m a little worried that if women end up doing all the flexible working and men all go to the office that that will cut them off from networks and opportunities that will result in an even exacerbated gender gap.”