Flexible work arrangements promote productivity, enhance job satisfaction, and enable retention of valuable staff. However, not all employers are willing to give their team flexible hours, and the perception of flexible workplace varies by gender. In a Harvard Business Review article, David Burkus shares data that indicates a problem.
Research at Furman University examined how likely people were to approve (fictional, but treated as real) requests for flexible work accommodation. Requests were largely identical, but changes to gender and reasoning (family-related or not family-related) of the person were made. Almost 70 percent of 600 participants in the study were either likely or very likely to grant the request of male employees who wanted flexible schedules for childcare reasons. When female employees made that same request, the number dropped to around 57 percent.
Preference for male over female workers is still culturally embedded in many organizations. But even if flexible scheduling is granted without bias, a study in Germany suggests that there is still a gender wage gap. The study used an annual survey of over 30,000 people to examine the impact of flexible scheduling on hours worked and income of men and women. Researchers found that those who switched to flexible scheduling worked more overtime than those who worked a fixed schedule. However, men used the extra time to earn an average €6,700 more per year, while women earned around €2,000 more per year. Burkus comments on this:
One possible explanation is that men are more likely to gain schedule control as a result of increased productivity or a promotion and to use that control to set an even more productive schedule, while women are more likely to use their control to better accommodate their family schedule. An equally likely explanation might be that women are perceived as using flexible scheduling to accommodate family demands. Thus, even if women are using flexible schedules to be more productive, the impression of their peers might be the opposite.
These studies may contain worrying implications for work-life balance and gender equality in the workplace. But they don’t justify the elimination of flexible work arrangements. Employees should be treated equally based on their personal needs and the requirements of a company. While employers can be more understanding in accommodating their team to work more conveniently, employees should also adhere to business rules and shouldn’t take advantage of their employers’ flexibility.
You can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/02/everyone-likes-flex-time-but-we-punish-women-who-use-it