Even in the face of an ongoing recession and dwindling employment opportunities, job seekers are asking employers tough questions. Among a curt list that includes questions about fair compensation, benefits, promotion, job seekers – and even current employees – are inquiring about flexible schedules. These schedule allowances don’t just allot for flexibility in being able to take doctor’s appointments and school plays; these allowances as for time at home.
In fact, according to a recent New York Times article “Covering Not a Corner Office, but Time at Home,” Catherine Rampell writes how revolutionized work force finds “climbing a career ladder less of a concern than finding a position that offers paid sick leave, flexible scheduling or even the opportunity to work fewer hours.” Sarah Uttech for example, interviewed by Rampell, tells of how she successfully negotiated a unique work schedule with her employer – every Friday she gets to work from home. Of course, she’d astutely navigated to that position after arranging for temporary flexibility during the summers. After a few successful years of proving her merit and ability to produce while working from home, Uttech was able to convincer her boss to make it year round.
The women pursuing these accommodations realize and accept that this they might have to forego their dream job and settle for lesser positions that allow wiggle room. For employers, this means the opportunity to get star talent as a mid-level associate price. Of course, in exchange, for employees it means the chance to attend recitals, baseball games, help with homework, and make a family dinner.
Rampell highlights an interesting point. In light of “Lean In” culture, what does a move for lesser career goals in exchange for flexibility really say about leadership in the marketplace? As Rampell notes, “unnaccounted for in the latest books offering leadership strategies by and for elite women is the fact that only 37 percent of working women (and 44 percent of working men) say they actually want a job with more responsibilities,” – this per a survey by Families and Work Institute.
Of course, this applies to men too. As Rampell notes in a related article, “Working Parents, Wanting Fewer Hours,” men face an oddly equal supply of criticism and frowns when requesting paternity leave and flexible time, indicating to employers that they’re perhaps not serious about their careers. The figures are surprising for men, who are traditionally seen as the bread winners. In fact, “30 percent of these fathers would prefer to work part time, and 16 percent would stay home.” When paired with the 84% of fathers currently working full time, you find that there’s an unspoken disparity in the male workforce between how much they are working and how much they’d like to scale back.
Another recent New York Times article entitled, “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In,” further discussed how men are finding themselves penalized professionally for wanting to spend more time with families. Not surprisingly as Rampell notes, “only about a third of employers allow at least some of their employees to work from home on a regular basis; just 2 percent allow all or most of their employees this option.”
The facts simply don’t match up with the media hype. Entrepreneur, for example, featured an article favoring flexible work environments in their July issue. One by Bruce Schoenfeld entitled “Here, there and everywhere: the modern office is where you happen to be,” which cited modern communication tools as a means to enable flexibility. Later in the same issue, readers are met with meet and office friendly bars to conduct business in.
So if media and the industry is favoring remote workers, why is there such a lag time for companies despite facts showing that this is what workers want? Perhaps not for much longer, as Fast Company recently featured in a piece on how companies are “falling over each other” to become the best place to work. In it, author Mark C. Crowley insightfully adds that “the American workplace has become profoundly destructive to the human spirit,” – the cure for which might start at offering workplace flexibility.
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