Flex Time Inequities

In a study conducted by researchers from the University of
Texas and the Yale School of Management, many male and
female managers tend to believe that women who ask for
flexible working hours are more likely than men to use the
time for personal, rather than professional, reasons.

The study found that men and women in high-status,
non-hourly positions who said they wanted to advance their
careers were most likely to be granted a compressed work
schedule. Men and women in similar scenarios requesting
flextime for family reasons were far less likely to get
it.

Additionally, men in low-status careers who asked for
family flex time were more likely to have their requests
approved than women in similar situations.

One possible explanation of the findings among low-status
men and women comes from Ken Matos, research director at
the New York based Families and Work Institute. According
to Matos, male and female managers assume that when women
ask for flextime, they will begin a downward spiral out of
the workplace, but the managers don’t make that same
assumption about men.

An interesting twist in the report noted that men were
more likely to believe they wouldn’t get flex time, so
they were less likely to ask for it, whereas women were
more courageous and freely expressed their needs for an
accommodation.

HR POINTER: Flex time is a wonderful benefit in work
environments that involve knowledge workers or companies
where employees can work independently and with little or
no supervision. However, production environments and
time-sensitive customer service workplaces (e.g., a bank)
often have difficulty accommodating flex time requests.

Flex time requests can be a “slippery slope” of
accommodations that may be wonderful for certain employees
but generate morale problems among other employees if and
when a company says, “We can’t accommodate any more flex
requests.”

As such, our advice is to establish strong criteria for
the number of flex requests allowed and the granting of
flex time around the core operating times and activities
of a given work area.

This is not a decision that should be left to supervisors
as the productivity and morale of a given department can
hinge on how a company responds to flex time requests.

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