During the winter months, the darkness falls much earlier in the day, which, combined with the cold, can be an intimidating experience. For women, this fear can be intensified even more due to the earlier evening commute.
A survey by YouGov found that more than a third of women in London have suffered unwanted advances and behaviours while commuting on the tube. This is why it’s crucial for workplaces to support the women they employ by adhering to their needs to make them feel comfortable and protected during the winter months.
In the modern working world, there are many options that can be investigated and adapted for these later months of the year. Here, Ben Mercer, road bike enthusiast and director at Leisure Lakes Bikes, offers his insights.
Flexible and hybrid working policies
Not everyone enjoys working from home, but when the option is there, it can help workers still feel involved in daily processes without the sense of isolation. This is where hybrid working can help considerably, as on those days when they may not feel comfortable travelling to and from their workplace in the dark, they’re able to sign in from home and collaborate remotely.
Flexible working can also offer a great solution, as it gives women the ability to adjust and scale their working hours to make sure their commuting times are safer for them. This might mean starting later or finishing their working day earlier, but these policies can make a world of difference to their confidence when moving to and from their workplace.
Building strategies that are employee-oriented
One thing that can help the confidence and safety of your female workforce during winter is implementing strategies that make them feel seen and protected by their employer. A great example is if a large portion of a workforce takes public transport or walks to get into the office, organising a carpooling system. This could mean that if someone is travelling from further away but is driving by the home of a female employee on their route, they would be able to jump in with the driver.
Similarly, another employee-driven strategy could be for those who cycle for their commute. A list could be created of all the cyclists, meaning it would enable them to meet and cycle together on their bikes or schedule a larger group to ride into the office. Not only does this help emphasise a feeling of camaraderie, but it can also help create friendships that extend beyond the workplace through a common hobby.
While having these processes in place can be useful, the anxieties that travelling in winter can intensify may require additional feelings of safety. As part of the incentive to protect women within the workforce, employers could work with charities to organise sessions for self-defence basics.
This may not mean learning how to physically combat attackers but rather educating on best practices when confronted with the terrifying scenarios they can face. These can range from apps and services they can utilise to track their location or how best to plan their route so they’re always well-lit and near other pedestrians. This can help to foster a sense of mutual support with the other women in the workshop.
Education for men
This might sound counterintuitive, but educating men on why it’s so important to look out for their colleagues and speak up to protect those around them is crucial to reducing the amount of antisocial behaviour women face daily.
While the conversations around the behaviours and struggles that women face daily, some men may not be aware of just how dangerous spaces like public transport can become in a second. This is why it’s crucial to provide this knowledge, no matter how uncomfortable it might be to receive it.
Protecting the wellbeing of your workforce is a topic of conversation that should extend beyond winter, but it’s an important season to consider, given the raised levels of anxiety it poses. Supporting colleagues, employees, and friends through the months of the year when fears arise during their commutes could be a huge difference maker not only in the confidence of women but in their safety as well.