Flexible working is becoming a must for many. One recent report found a quarter of UK workers have refused a job due to a lack of flexibility. This number jumps to 40% for millennial workers for whom work-life balance and flexible working is key when evaluating a job prospect.
Many hope that flexible working can help tackle the persistent gender pay gap. This is why the UK government announced a review of the right to flexible working in 2019 and the prime minister, Theresa May, said firms should strive to make it a reality for all staff, while urging companies to ensure women are better represented at senior levels. But my work with Tanja van der Lippe into the reality of how flexible working plays out shows that it can end up reinforcing gender stereotypes if cultural norms go unchecked.
Research from Yougov shows that the majority of workers want to have some sort of flexibility in their work, with more than half wanting to deviate away from the traditional 9 to 5 routine. It has also been shown that just under half of workers are already working flexibly one way or another.
This echoes my findings based on the 2015 European Working Conditions Survey which found that just under 30% of workers in the UK have access to some sort of flexible schedules and 23% regularly work outside of their offices/at home. As today’s survey shows this type of flexibility helps workers better navigate between the demands of work and family life, which increases wellbeing, job satisfaction, motivation and loyalty towards the company eventually making them stay in the job longer. This in sum provides huge benefits for employers.
However, there is increasing evidence that workers, especially men, are hesitant to ask for flexible working due to fears of repercussions on their career. My own research shows that more than 1/3 of workers feel that flexible workers make more work for others, and will result in negative outcomes for one’s career/promotion chances. This is largely due to the fact that our working culture is still one where long hours in the officeis seen as a sign of commitment.
But with demand for flexible working high and abundant evidence for the business case for flexible working we need to tackle the flexibility stigma – i.e., the biases against those who work flexibly and change our notion of what productivity and commitment looks like. This will ensure flexible working works for all and achieves the benefits it can bring to both business and their staff.’
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.
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.
Staff working for charities may be more susceptible to overwork and ill effects from poor work-life balance.
Those working for charities often feel they need to work harder because failure to do so lets down the beneficiaries of their charities. The passion many employees in this sector feel for their work can lead to the blurring of boundaries between work and personal commitment.
US employers are increasingly using ‘just-in-time scheduling’ to meet demands. This involves using up-to-the-minute data to make staffing decisions in real-time, meaning that employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re needed and avoid paying wages to workers unnecessarily:
Employers assign workers tentative shifts, and then notify them a half-hour or ten minutes before the shift is scheduled to begin whether they’re actually needed. Some even require workers to check in by phone, email, or text shortly before the shift starts.
Just-in-time scheduling is one part of the US’s new ‘flexible’ economy and is lauded by business leaders for improving control over costs.
However, it can have a negative impact on employees as steady hours and predictable pay are eroded. As well as affecting individuals’ financially, it also make planning responsibilities such as childcare. ‘Just-in-time’ scheduling and other forms of flexible work ‘businesses more efficient, but it’s a nightmare for working families’.
The issue of whether new mothers should stay at home with their children is a contentious one; some view being at home as vital to their child’s well being and happiness, while others stress the importance of quality, over quantity of, time.
This article profiles several women who have managed to combine the competing demands of work and family life, using flexible working strategies such as remote working and project work.
Reporting on new data from the Netherlands, this article notes that flex workers are less satisfied with their jobs and lives than those with permanent working contracts. Flex workers are less satisfied with their pay, training and career opportunities when compared to permanent staff.
It goes on to note that while in 2002 80% of workers had permanent working contracts within six to ten years of entering the workforce, that has now extended to between ten and fifteen years.
Dr. Jade S. Jenkins is currently the academic assessment coordinator at Texas A&M – Texarkana. She earned her Ph.D in social and industrial-organizational psychology from Northern Illinois University, and her research interests include occupational health psychology, stereotypes, and the self . Here she writes about how those who utilize family-friendly policies may face stigma from colleagues and managers.Continue reading →
The OECD has been working for over a decade to identify the best ways to measure the progress of societies.
To this end, the OECD has identified 11 dimensions as being essential to well-being, from health and education to local environment, personal security and overall satisfaction with life, as well as more traditional measures such as income. This includes issues such as work-life balance, the quality of employment and well-being in the workplace.
Using these measure, the OECD has produced two core products:
The Better Life Index allows users to compare their own priorities for well-being against data for all OECD countries, plus Brazil and the Russian Federation.
The How’s Life report responds to a demand from citizens, analysts and for better and more comparable information on people’s well-being and societal progress.