Research

Flexible working still carries a stigma for staff

24 Jan 2019 By Lauren Brown

One in five workers say working flexibly has negatively impacted their career

We’ve all heard the words ‘working from home’ accompanied by air quote marks and a sarcastic look, but research has revealed many workers harbour more serious negative sentiments about flexible working.

Dr Heejung Chung from the University of Kent analysed data from the government’s 2011 Work-Life Balance Survey to determine if a stigma still existed. Her research revealed the majority of those who held negative beliefs about flexible working were men.

Moreover, one out of five workers (18 per cent) – the majority of whom were women – said they had experienced direct negative career consequences as a result of working flexibly.

Men, on the other hand, especially those who were fathers (almost half of respondents), were more likely to have reported that their own jobs were negatively impacted due to others working flexibly.

Chung, from the university’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, said: “It is clear there are still many people who view flexible working as a negative. This has major implications for how employers offer flexible working arrangements in their organisation, especially as the government looks to increase the rights of workers to request flexible working.”

Chung added that a simple introduction and expansion of the right to request flexible working would not be enough to solve the problem. 

“We need to challenge our prevalent organisational cultures which privilege work above everything else, with long hours considered to be synonymous with productivity and commitment. Such change is crucial, especially if flexible working is to help reduce the gender wage gap.”

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