For Working Families’ National Work Life Week, Jonathan Ward discuss how flexible work isn’t necessarily evenly experienced by both men and women in the cultural industries.
The Work, Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance (WAF) Project today releases its first working paper by principal investigator Heejung Chung.
This paper examines the provision of flexitime in companies across a number of European countries. The results show that company composition, structure and agency factors all play a role in explaining the provision of flexitime. However, the factors explaining the provision of flexitime within each country are not necessarily the same as those explaining how companies provide it to employees.
Cross-national variance in the provision of flexitime in 2009 can be explained mostly through national level demand: female labour market participation rates, cultural norms on work, as well as the affluence of the country. This is a change from 2004, where the most important factors explaining the provision of flexitime were government efforts in providing family policy and the size of the public sector.
Overall, this paper shows that the more relevant factors in explaining why companies provide flexitime, especially as related to cross-national differences, seem to be based on the demand for such policies and the available resources to meet the demands.
There are now over three million employees who are regular night-workers in the UK – an increase of 6.9% between 2007 and 2014.
In 2014, 14.9% of male employees were night workers, this is compared to 9.7% of female employees. However, the number of women working nights has grown at a faster rate: 12% since 2007 for women, as opposed to a 4% increase in regular night working for men.
There are negative health implications for those who work nights, such as heightened risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. Less attention has been given to the impacts on home life, relationships and work-life balance.
A new report from the TUC demonstrates that night working can increase the risk of relationship problems, can affect the emotional well being of a night worker’s children, and is associated with higher childcare costs. However, these negative impacts can be mitigated when employees have more influence and control over their shift patterns.
Employers must properly consider and address all the implications for staff of night working and how best to mitigate negative outcomes. Decisions to extend night working need to involve consultation and negotiation with workers’ representatives to ensure fair and safe outcomes.
Laura Good, Deborah Towns and Jesse E. Olsen, from the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, discuss work-life balance, workplace gender inequality, and an innovative Australian programme to encourage more men to take-up flexible working arrangements.
Women’s increased participation in the labour force over the past 50 years has outpaced changes to work organisation and social attitudes. This is true for issues of work-life balance, which continue to polarise workers and managers.
Younger generations of workers – so called ‘Millennials’ – are used to constantly using new communications technology to constant keep up-to-date with social media and personal email. This has also come to mean that monitoring work emails outside office hours has become routine – blurring the boundaries between work and personal life. A majority of 18-34 year old workers in one survey said that answering work email during dinner way OK, versus only 22% of workers age 55-64.
However, there are signs that younger workers are dissatisfied with the effects of a constant digital connection to their workplace on their work-life balance. This will have implications for employers as younger workers are the most active employee group in seeking better work-life balance; they are the most likely group to move jobs, relocate home or take a pay-cut for better balance and work flexibility.
To attract and retain the best talent, employers will need to better adapt to the demands of these workers who want work-life balance. Examples of how this is being done include shifting management focus from requiring attendance in the office, to looking at ways of allowing workers the flexibility to be work productively. Importantly, this means putting high-levels of trust in workers.
Read more at TIME.
Research from the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that 54,000 new mothers may be forced out of their jobs in Britain each year. Around 20% of the 3,200 new mothers surveyed also reported harassment or negative comments from managers and colleagues when returning to work.
Where they were able to take up flexible working options, half of new mothers reported negative consequences, including having fewer opportunities to develop their careers. Interestingly, mothers working for small businesses were less likely to report a negative impact from flexible work requests – 41% versus 51% across all respondents.
Read more at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
To promote women at work, companies should be looking to provide men with more benefits, including committing to offering paternity leave.
Making leave for new parents gender-neutral, allowing both new mothers and fathers time to look after their child, would help to reduce the ‘motherhood’ penalty faced by women who, after taking parental leave, are less likely to be promoted and earn less than their male colleagues.
For paternity leave policies to have any affect, however, companies must do more than announce them. Rather, they need to encourage men to use them and help change workplace cultures where men fear taking paternity leave will damage their careers.
The more men that take paternity leave the sooner it will be normalised. This will mean new fathers and their child can benefit from more time spent together, and also that women will no longer face the stigma of taking maternity leave.
Read more the Huffington Post.
Despite the popularity, and range, of discussion about flexible working it remains viewed as something pursued only by those without ambition.
That is, flexible working is viewed, simply, as working less. This is problematic as contemporary work cultures still reward working long hours, “as if our achievements are somehow less impressive if we haven’t sweated blood and sacrificed our sanity, health and home life to get there”.
The stereotypical flexible worker tends to be a parent (usually a mother) trying to adapt their work schedules with childcare. However, there is a larger pool of people who don’t have family commitments and don’t want to cut their hours, but who would still like to take advantage of flexible working practices and benefits it could bring to their personal and working lives.
Yet, while flexible working remains seen as a second-class option it will not deliver its potential in promoting employee retention and productivity. Workplaces need to undergo a cultural change wherein mere ‘presenteeism’ isn’t accord special significance over more meaningful measures of employee achievement at work.
Read more at The Guardian.
One in five UK workers have called in sick due to unmanageable stress – and 93% of these workers gave a different reason for their absence.
Excessive workloads, long hours and poor work-life balance are often cited as causing workplace stress. As such, to help reduce workplace stress employers have been urged to allow flexible working as a means of improving work-life balance and mental wellbeing.
Read more at Workplace Savings and Benefits.
In Australia, it remains taken for granted that women will take primary responsibility for childcare. It is women who are overwhelmingly the stay-at-home child carers, and women who work part-time to accommodate childcare needs.
While many men might want to take on childcare responsibility there are factors that prevent them from doing so. The gender pay gap means that men often earn more than their female partners, making it more likely women who will give up work. It’s also the case that too few workplaces in Australia offer flexible work arrangements.
This lack of flexible working arrangements make it difficult for men to take on childcare responsibilities. Importantly, however, men must be active in asking for flexible work, to shift cultural expectations and make it the norm.
Read more at The Age.