In 2014, UK employees with over six months’ service were given the right to request flexible working hours, regardless of caring responsibilities. Although the benefits of flexible working are vast, this policy might be backfiring across certain industries.
Laura Jones, of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, published a report on women’s progression in the workplace.
The research revealed an “implementation gap” in which organizations are seemingly committed to flexible working, but either don’t actually provide it or offer it in a problematic way.
“We found evidence […] of the marginalisation of part-time and flexible workers — a phenomenon produced by a mismatch between these ways of working and organisational cultures which equate commitment with the ability to work long hours; and which assume that those who make use of these schemes do not want to develop their careers,” said Jones.
In short, the report found that if you seek flexibility, you are viewed as less ambitious. With women accounting for the majority of requests, it is no wonder that gender disparities continue to thrive in the workplace.
For example, a study found that a top accounting firm’s flexible work policy reinforced gender inequality by using it to determine who was committed to their career and who was not.
Keeping all of this in mind, flexible working does not have to be a nuisance for managers. In fact, it can boost company morale, enhance productivity and increase diversity — the perfect formula for a thriving workplace.