Barbara Hobson draws on the research of a team within a large European Network of Excellence, Reconciling work and welfare (RECWOWE), many of whom are authors in the recent book, Worklife Balance: The Agency and Capabilities Gap, focusing on the individual/household, firm and managerial level and welfare state policy context across European countries and Japan. In this post she discusses the choices faced by those who seek to take advantage of work-life balance policies. Continue reading
The Eurofound 2014 Yearbook on Living and Working in Europe covers recent employment trends, highlights job creation and job loss has occurred, and suggests where investment in future growth is best directed.
Amongst its findings, data show that of those establishments that offer working time flexibility 44% do so only on a limited basis, with 35% having a selective offering. Only 20% of establishments have schemes that are encompassing; i.e. offer a broad range of flexible working time arrangements that usually are available to most or all employees.
However, analysis shows that those establishments offering flexible work on a encompassing basis have higher levels of performance and employee wellbeing. Those with selective provision have similar levels of well-being but lower performance, while limited provision establishments have lower performance and well-being than those with encompassing schemes.
Read more at Eurofound.
Interviews with fathers who have children under school age have shown that almost two thirds feel that their work pattern does not suit their needs. A quarter say they are unhappy with their work-life balance.
Half these fathers, who represent a range of sectors and seniority levels, suggested that remote working or flexitime would help their situation. However, a similar proportion were afraid to ask for flexible working as it would demonstrate a lack of commitment. 42% felt that it would affect their career progression.
Read more at Business Matters.
Employers are failing to overtly offer prospective employees flexible working options, and this is causing a ‘talent bottleneck’. While 46% of people in employment in the UK want some kind of flexible working, only 6% of vacancy listings specify flexible options.
So few job adverts mention flexible working that 77% of flexible workers feel trapped in their current role – halting career progression. Moreover, those seeking flexible work ‘trade down’, 41% of flexible workers taking employment below their skill or salary level in order to get the flexibility they need.
Research shows that 52% of those looking for flexible work feel nervous to ask for flexibility when it isn’t specified in the advert; 43% fear asking will damage their chances of getting the job.
By not being proactive in opening jobs to those seeking flexible work, employers are cutting themselves off from some of the best available talent
Read more at Timewise.
It has often been assumed that a lack of family-friendly policies has kept many women from promotion to the highest ranks of the business world, and companies are starting to address this concern.
It may be that the lack of family-friendly policies may not be the most pressing issue. Rather the surge in hours worked by both men and women should be of primary concern as 24/7 work cultures ‘lock gender inequality in place’.
Issues of work-family conflict remain understood as primarily a woman’s problem; family-friendly policies designed to deal with work-family conflict target women and have unintended negative consequences for their careers. Yet, providing family-friend policy allows companies to focus on a narrow set of fixes and ignore more difficult questions about cultures of overwork.
Read more at the New York Times.
Many mothers looking to return work assume part-time schedules would be an ideal solution. However, research shows that many of those working mothers on official part-time schedules work well outside the bounds of them. Researcher Laura Vanderkam points out that:
Even though the part-timers had often taken pay cuts, and risked being seen as less committed to their careers than full-time colleagues, they weren’t necessarily working that much less.
Thus, rather than shifting to part-time contracts, returning mothers should consider returning full-time but with flexible working patterns.
Read more at Harvard Business Review.
Studies show that statutory maternity leaves and affordable childcare often have unintended consequences for women – such as reduced earnings, or discriminatory hiring practices by employers.
These negative effects should not be understood as undermining the case for such initiatives. Rather, they demonstrate that the assumption remains that childcare and other family responsibilities are the sole duty of women.
Family-friendly policy should be crafted to encourage greater uptake by both men and women, to help change the kinds of attitudes that rewards working men who become fathers and penalises women who become mothers.
Read more at XX Factor.
Research at a global strategy consulting firm with a strong US presence found that many men are dissatisfied with the expectation that they perform the role of the ‘ideal worker’ who is fully devoted to, and available for, the job, with no personal responsibilities or interests that interfere with this commitment to work.
To deal with their dissatisfaction some men made discrete changes to still ‘pass’ as ideal workers. Others, who asked for help from managers and colleagues, often faced marginalisation in the workplace.
While attempting to covertly ‘pass’ as the ideal worker may seem preferably, this has several drawbacks: it involves deception between employers and employees; it’s a strategy that isn’t open to everyone, and; it perpetuates myths about the best workers being the ones who apparently work longest.
Read more at Harvard Business Review.
For staff, the biggest concern is that they’ll be perceived as lazy (51%). This is followed by fear that flexible work will have negative impacts on their career progression (43%) and fear of resentment from co-workers (38%).
Employers are most concerned about not treated all employees equally (51%). There are also issues of trust, the following two concerns being employee abuse of flexible policies (49%) and difficulty in supervising employees who work flexibly (44%).
Read more at Business Insider.
The downsides of email now outweigh the benefits as they promote unmanageable workloads and supplant face-to-face discussions. Moreover, these negative impacts extend beyond the workplace and into workers’ homes. New technology encourages checking and replying to email while not at work, with consequences for individuals’ quality of life.
Employers have a role to play in helping employees manage email and encourage use that doesn’t negative affect work-life balance. Guidelines should discourage email use while not working, avoid unnecessarily including too many people in group emails, and to prefer face-to-face meetings between colleagues in the same building.
Read more at The Guardian.