Men, Women and Workplace Flexibility

Men, Women and Workplace FlexibilityBy Christy Schutz

Here at The Work at Home Woman, we obviously tend to focus on how flexible work arrangements impact women. But, as I brainstormed for this post, I wondered what the trends looked like for today’s men in the workplace. Turns out men are seeking flexible, work arrangements from their employers, too, but the facts may surprise you.

I came across one study done in 2013 by Catalyst, the nonprofit organization focused on expanding opportunities for women and business. They polled more than 700 “high potential” men and women – MBA grads around the world from a variety of industries – about their perspective of and history with flexible working arrangements. This study was done after several high profile companies like Yahoo made their controversial announcements that they were ending their flexible work arrangement programs.

Some key findings the survey uncovered included:

  • 81% of those surveyed reported that their companies provided flexible work options (defined as including telecommuting, flexible start/end times for the work day, flex time, compressed work weeks, reduced work/part-time and job sharing).
  • It is just as common for men as it is for women to utilize their company’s flexible work arrangements.
  • The type of flexible work arrangements men and women were most likely to take advantage of, however, were different. Men were interested in arrangements that did not affect their ability to be present physically at work. So, this means that they’d take advantage of flex time or flexible start/end times for their work day before they would consider telecommuting. Conversely, women were more likely than men to telecommute. The primary reason for this difference is that men are trying to avoid the perceived disadvantages that come with the lost “face time” they’d have at the office in a telecommuting scenario. (Check out my post on the misperceptions that managers and employees have about “face time”)
  • High achievers are able to achieve MORE with companies that offer these flexible work programs. For example, when high performing men were asked if they’d aspire to senior level roles within their companies, 85% reported they’d pursue these roles in companies who didn’t offer these programs vs. 94% who said they’d chase those opportunities with companies that DID offer flexible work arrangements. However, the women polled seemed to be greatly impacted by these programs. When the same question was posed to them, 54% said they’d pursue the top jobs at companies without the flexible work programs vs. 83% who’d pursue them with companies that did offer flexible work arrangements.

In another study reported on by Flex+Strategy Group, the organization focused on flexible workplace strategies, they unearthed some unexpected findings. The results from a December 2013 telephone survey of 556 full-time employees revealed that:

  • Nearly 31% of the people polled did most of their work away from their office.
  • The stereotypes about remote workers proved mostly untrue. For example, 71% of remote employees were men. There was not a significant difference in numbers of telecommuters who had kids vs. didn’t have kids. And, there was not one specific age group that telecommuted more than another. So, that picture of telecommuters being mostly millennials and/or women with children is just not accurate!
  • About 47% of remote workers, vs. the 35% who worked from open office/cubicle environments, received training and guidance on how to manage work life flexibility.
  • People who work in open office or cubicle environments were more likely to be women (43%) vs. men (27%). And, these employees were more likely to report that they didn’t take advantage of the flexible work arrangements their employers offered because of it might be detrimental to their career or make it appear that they didn’t work as hard (another case of the “face time” misperceptions that exist for remote workers).

So, what is the bottom line?

I believe it indicates that telecommuting and flexible work arrangements are important to employees and make a big difference in the types of opportunities employees will pursue. I also think more and more men are a part of the remote workforce (and in some cases, outnumber women), which I believe is very positive in that it enables us to work together to figure out how to make this whole “work/ life balance” stuff really happen. And lastly, I believe we still have a lot of work to do to dispel the “face time” myths that claim that people who are physically in the office are doing more, and doing it more productively, than their work-from-home counterparts.

What do you think about these studies? Do they mirror the beliefs and statistics taking place at your employer? Have flexible work arrangements become more or less available with your employer? Does the “face time” misperception keep you from pursuing a telecommuting work arrangement?

Christy Schutz, is a communications professional and freelance writer focused on topics like employer/personal branding, career management, personal development, women in the workplace, and female entrepreneurs. She enjoys putting 16+ years of experience in the advertising, recruitment marketing, employee/internal communications and special events industries to good use by helping others to discover, develop and market their own distinct calling or mission. This Tampa Bay, FL-based Mom also keeps herself busy by raising 4 kids, caring for her husband & doting on her dogs Petey and Daisy!

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