Tag Archives: Remote Working

Want more women in top positions? Provide them with more flexibility at work

Heejung Chung, University of Kent

The recent BBC report on the pay of its top earners laid bare the disparities between men and women’s earnings. But it should come as no surprise. The gender pay gap has been stubbornly stagnant over the past decade. According to the EU (which calculates the gap based on hourly pay differences between men and women), men earn around 20% more. And the UK’s official statistics group, which calculates the pay gap of full-time earnings, men earn an average of about 10% more than women.

One core reason for this difference is the tendency for women to drop out of the labour market or move into (bad and low-paid) part-time jobs after having children. Employment data makes this clear.

For example, in 2015, 85% of women between the ages of 25‒49 without children were employed, exactly the same proportion as childless men employed in the same age group. But women are likely to drop out of the labour market or reduce their hours after childbirth, while men are more likely to increase their hours and increase their labour market participation.

The stats show that there is a sharp drop in the employment rate of women with children – to 71% – while the employment rate of fathers rises to more than 90% . Further, only 16% of all women between the ages of 25‒49 without dependent children worked part-time, while this proportion more than triples for women in the same age group with children to 52% .

It isn’t just about working part-time but the quality of part-time work is also a factor. It is widely known that women usually switch to lower-paying, lower-quality jobs when moving into part-time work, due to the lack of high-quality well-paid part-time jobs in the UK .

So the question arises: what can we do to help women maintain their working patterns after childbirth, without sacrificing their careers? My research into flexible working arrangements shows that they can help women maintain their working hours and stay in employment.

Introducing flexitime

Obviously the more flexibility you have at work the better you are able to shape work around family demands. I myself am a good example of this. Coming back to work from having taken six months of maternity leave after the birth of my daughter, I would not have been able to go back to work full-time if it wasn’t for the flexibility I had at work. Given the great amount of freedom you have as an academic to work whenever and wherever you want (within limits), I was able to work full-time by working from home and catching up on work during the weekends and evenings when my baby was asleep or I had other childcare support available. It was hard and I lost a lot of sleep – but through such flexibility I was able to maintain my research career.

I wondered whether similar patterns could be observed for other women in the UK. To investigate, my colleague Mariska van der Horst and I used a data set of 40,000 households to see whether being able to have control over when you work and where you work influences women’s likelihood of remaining in employment and not reducing their working hours significantly (of more than 4 hours) after the birth of their children. The results were remarkable.

In our research, which was published in the journal Human Relations, we found that women who were able to use flexitime were only half as likely to reduce their working hours after the birth of their child. This effect was especially the case for the women who used flexitime prior to the birth of their child as well as after.


Heejung Chung, CC BY-ND

In the overall sample, more than half the women reduced their working hours after the birth of their child. But less than a quarter of the women who were able to use flexitime reduced their hours, with similar results for women who were able to work from home if they wanted to. This shows that, given the chance to work flexibly, many women would stay in work and maintain their hours and their pay after having children.

As I’ve found in previous research, not all jobs allow for flexible work arrangements – and they are not necessarily provided to those in most need of them. Rather, they tend to be given more to high-skilled, higher educated workers in supervisory roles. Another recent study found that a large number of mothers are forced to leave their jobs after flexible working requests were turned down.

The ConversationIt is not only a matter of justice but also a matter of society’s economic prosperity and development to ensure that women are able to remain in the labour market across different stages of the life cycle, including childbirth. The right to flexible working is crucial if we are to tackle the problem of gender inequality in the labour market – especially when it comes to having a balance at the top of the career ladder.

Heejung Chung, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Kent

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Dads struggle to find work-life balance – Business Matters

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.

 

Work email is making us a ‘generation of idiots’. Time to switch off – The Guardian

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.

Female company president: “I’m sorry to all the mothers I worked with” – Fortune

Katharine Zaleski reflects on how her own attitudes to childcare and women the workplace has altered since having a child.

While previously she had accepted cultural norms that suggest mother’s cannot be fully committed to work, her views have altered. Particular, she notes that news kinds of flexible working, particularly remote working, can help mothers remain engaged with work while also taking care of a child – and even become more productive as a result.

Interestingly she also notes that there may need to be limits on flexible working. She notes that expectations that people will be available for last minute meetings that run outside office hours, or for after-work drinks to network and discuss projects, are examples where flexibility negatively effects work-life balance and encourages the blurring of boundaries between these domains.

Read more at Fortune.

Flexible Work: Nice, if You Can Get It – New York Times

This article describes some of the ways in which US workers experience flexible working (or the lack thereof).

Positive accounts note that flexible hours are ‘worth their weight in gold’ and worth taking a lower paying job for. Though successful deployment and use of flexible working policies requires managers to become ‘comfortable with what productivity and accountability looks like in a telework/flexible schedule setting’.

Others, however, are more cautious. One respondent noted that because they have a flexible work schedule, between part-time and freelance work, they have become the ‘go-to parent’ for caring for a sick child, making doctors appointments et cetera, while their paid workload remains the same. The results are ‘often stressful and exhausting, especially when the two careers get busy at the same time’.

And there remain, of course, many who still have zero-flexibility in their jobs, which causes issues around maintaining a work-life balance. Many respondents noted that this still has the effect of producing families wherein work is split between one wage-earner and one caregiver.

Read more at the New York TImes.

Regus research finds out of office hours work growing – GR

A new survey of 3,000 business people suggests that 69% of UK professionals now work more outside usual office hours than in 2010. A similar number of respondents (72%) note that fixed hours are no longer suitable for their duties.

More than three-quarters – 76% – of businesses also reported a rise in remote workers, further suggesting that the concept of 9-5 day in the office is outdated.

Read more at GR.

Flex Time Doesn’t Need to Be an HR Policy – HBR Blog

This article reports data from a new survey of working men. It notes that informal flexibility arrangements are much more prevalent, with 66% reporting ad-hoc arrangements. Only 29% reported having regularly scheduled flexible working arrangements.

The author suggests that the prevalence of informal arrangements may be a boon as it normalise flexible working. This may encourage more employees to take advantage of flexible working with reduced workplace stigma, and spur employers and employees to embrace flexibility in the future.

Read more at HBR Blog.

Gen Y most negative towards flexible workers – HR Magazine

New research suggests that ‘Gen Y’ (those aged between 25 and 34 years-old) have the most negative attitude towards flexible working.

31% of UK Gen Y workers surveyed view those who work from home at least twice a week as less committed than people who work in the office every day. The average across all age groups was 21%.

Similarly, part-time working was seen as a sign of a lack of commitment by 27% of Gen Y respondents, versus 19% across the sample.

Those aged between 35 and 44 years-old were most supportive of flexible working patterns.

Read more at HR Magazine.

The economics of temporal and locational flexibility of work – Possenriede

Using Dutch panel data, the author argues that flexitime increases work-life balance and job satisfaction. However, teleworking improves only job satisfaction, and part-time only working-time fit.

The author also finds that remote working may harm careers since fewer promotions and employer-paid trainings are awarded to regular teleworkers. In their analysis of absenteeism, they demonstrate that schedule and location flexibility decrease the frequency and length of sickness absences.

Possenriede, Daniel (2014) The Economics of Temporal and Locational Flexibility of Work, Ph.D Thesis, Universiteit Utrecht

Available at: http://www.uu.nl/faculty/leg/EN/current/events/Pages/d-possenriede.aspx

International Flexible Working Survey 2013 – BakkerElkhuizen

This survey of flexible work in Germany, England, Belgium and Netherlands found that 64% of English firms have implemented some kind of flexible working. This more than Germany (57%), the Netherlands (48%) and Belgium (38%).

The reasons cited for not implementing flexible working were that:

1. Companies are still looking into the possibilities of flexible working;

2. Staff are tied to a fixed place and time because of their specific duties;

3. The organisation feels that the presence of staff is necessary.

Notably, the reasons for flexible working differed by country. In Belgium and England, organisations to implemented flexible ‘to satisfy the wishes of staff’. In Germany, the most important argument for flexible working was that it leads to ‘higher staff satisfaction’. In the Netherlands, ‘cost-savings on buildings, accommodation and workstations’ was key for organisation.

Read more here.