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.
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.
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.
A survey of 500 hiring managers and more than 1,500 professionals across Australia and New Zealand has shown what employers and employees fear most about flexible working.
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.
Men in the United States continue to face discrimination in the workplace for failing to maintain the appearance of the ‘ideal worker’, who is fully committed to work at the exclusion of family life. Even where they are taking pre-arranged or legally sanctioned leave, to care for a sick partner or new child, men face workplace stigma, marginalisation and even face losing their job.
Importantly, such workplace discrimination is ‘policed by men, but also, significantly, by women,’ says Joan Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law.
Read more at the HBR Blog.
In 2014 Working Families received almost 3,000 calls to its legal advice helpline. Based on this the charity points out that, while workers have the right to request flexible working, for those in low paid sectors flexible working remains a ‘pipe dream’.
Working Families notes that retail, social care, catering and hospitality sectors rely on ‘casualised’ labour, offering contracts that offer little job security and few guaranteed hours:
By their nature, such insecure jobs, with varying and unpredictable weekly hours… [that] make it very difficult if not impossible for workers to successfully request a change in their hours or working pattern to accommodate a change in their family circumstances, or to resist a problematic change in their hours or working pattern…
They point out that refusal to change working hours, often at short notice, “can easily lead to there being no work at all”. An issue exacerbated by the imposition of employment tribunal fees in 2013.
Read more at FlexibleBoss.
The Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency is launching a campaign to challenge the idea that juggling a job with raising children is largely a woman’s problem.
The Equilibrium Man Challenge aims to increase gender equality in the workforce by promoting flexible working among men. As well as encouraging better work-life balance among men, normalising such arrangements will help reduce ‘flexibility stigma‘ and workplace discrimination often faced by working mums who are viewed as seeking ‘special treatment’.
Read more at news.com.au
This new report from Eurofound notes that the take-up rate of parental and paternity leave among fathers has been increasing across the EU but remains relatively low. This report looks at:
- Trends in terms of take-up of parental and paternity leave
- Existing provisions
- Factors influencing take-up rates.
It also explores initiatives recently implemented by national authorities, governments and social partners to promote the take-up of parental and paternity leave, particularly among fathers.
It finds that while only three EU member states provide no paternal leave, it remains that where it is provided entitlements and benefits vary widely. This means that, in practice, “under the current parental and paternity leave regulations, children born in different countries have different chances of spending some time with their fathers in the first days of their lives”.
The report suggests that to increase take up of paternal leave, certain issues must be address. These include:
- Wage replacement rates
- Greater flexibility in terms of sharing and taking leave over time
- Increased availability of information to potential leave takers and employers
- Flexible return to work policies.
The report concludes by noting that promotion of equal uptake of leave by both parents will greatly contribute to a more equal participation of women and men in employment.
Read more at Eurofound.
This article notes that the last five years have seen an increase in policies providing access to flexible work in Australia. However, it points to new research that suggests policies are not being used effectively.
It suggests that the disconnect between the policy and the practice is a result of a lack of awareness among both employees and managers about the how flexible working policies are meant to operate. It notes that mangers, as gatekeepers, are blocking access to flexible work as they lack understanding of how to operationalise policy. Moreover, employee’s lack of awareness as to their entitlements also poses a barrier to access.
Read more on Women’s Agenda.