Flexible Career Solutions: More Work Harder Working Where They Wish

Woman working at home with laptop computer

Woman working at home with laptop computer

To everyone who started her workday in her pajamas and takes a lunch break with a stroll to the couch, congratulations. You may be more productive than your friend who commuted to the office today.

In its fifth annual Super Survey, Flexjobsfinds that flexible works best for most looking for career solutions. “According to a FlexJobs survey of over 3,100 professionals, only 7 percent of workers say the office is their location of choice if they need to be most productive on important work-related projects.”

You may be more productive than your friend who commuted to the office today.

According to Brie Weiler Reynolds writing on Flexjobs, “More than half (51 percent) of people said that their home is their preferred place to work. Eight percent said they would choose a coffee shop, coworking space, library, or other place besides the office and another 8 percent would choose the office, but only outside regular hours. Twenty-six percent go to the office during regular hours to complete important work because it’s not an option to leave.”

Why do 65 percent of workers say telecommuting is better than going into the office every day?

For anyone who has worked in a cube farm near someone who is chatty or loud, the answers seem obvious: fewer distractions, interruptions and meetings.

Freelancers, parents, students, caretakers and military spouses all say they prefer flexible jobs and the chance to work from home or remotely.

Freelancers, parents, students, caretakers and military spouses say they prefer flexible jobs

In a separate study of working parents, Flexjobs found that flexibility ranks higher than salary for most. Reynolds writes, “The majority of parents report needing to work, but 68 percent—more than two out of three parents—also report wanting to work. Ninety-one percent are absolutely sure that they can simultaneously be both great employees and great parents.” She adds, “In addition to paying for basic necessities, child-related costs, and saving for retirement, 56 percent of parents say they work so they can travel, and because they are passionate about success in their career (46 percent).”

Still, flex time is not preferable to face time, for at least one high profile female executive. “Yahoo Inc. chief Marissa Mayer — say staffers working at different times and locations cramps quality,” writes Danielle Paquette of the Washington Post. “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side,” Yahoo told its employees in a 2013 memo that prohibited them from working from home, according to Paquette.

Wherever they are working whether in an office or remotely, Americans are working more hours, period, writes Paquette. “The average worker amasses 1,836 hours per year, up 9 percent from 1,687 in 1979, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The trend probably stems from technological advances: omnipresent smartphones, video chat, Google docs. Meanwhile, about three-quarters of U.S. firms now allow some kind of scheduling flexibility, government data show.”

Certainly many prefer the flexibility of non-rigid 9-5 hours in an outside office space, but new research shows that flex time may equate to overtime. We’re actually working harder remotely in our quest for career solutions that work for our lives.

“Contrary to what you might expect, those with more control over their work schedule work more than those with less control,” writes Heejung Chung, senior lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Kent, in The Conversation. “In fact, people have a tendency to work more overtime hours once they are allowed to work flexibly, compared to when they were not.”

In the story reposted in Fortune  Chung writes of her research with  Yvonne Lott published in the European Sociological Review. “There is a lot of research showing how for some autonomy and control over your work can potentially increase work-life balance. In our paper, we also found that workers earn more when working flexibly, beyond the income gains from simply working longer. So there is evidence of career premiums when working in this way,” she writes.

Still, there is a gender divide with flexible work hours, and also with pay.

Still, there is a gender divide with flexible work hours, and also with pay.

“Women who work part-time do not work as many overtime hours as men do when working flexibly. This is most likely because women who work part-time usually do so because of family demands, so there is a limit to how long they can work,” Chung writes.

“But full-time working women do as many overtime hours as men when working flexibly, even when they are mothers. And yet we found they did not reap the same rewards in terms of pay as men.”

That may be because women are rewarded with flexibility and men are rewarded with money. “So an increase in flexibility at work may lead to the enforcement of traditional gender roles and increase the gender gap.”

She adds, “Greater flexibility and autonomy over work sound great—and could well herald a new era of better work-life balance. But so far much of the evidence points to the opposite and we need to better understand exactly what’s going on to tackle some of these negative consequences.” Existing labour laws protect workers from being exploited by employers. Perhaps what we need now are laws that can help protect workers from exploiting themselves such as France’s proposed “right to disconnect” to regulate out-of-hours emailing. Freedom doesn’t have to be slavery—we just need to make sure we know how to handle it.”

In a new study—of small sample of 350 Millennials working in the Washington D.C. area—the results show that preferences for flex time may not only have a gender divide but a generational divide. It seems from this research, Millennials prefer cash over flexibility.

According to Benefits Pro, “These findings from Eagle Hill Consulting’s report, mark an important shift in the priorities and preferences of this younger generation,” says Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill’s president and chief executive officer. “It’s no longer all about job perks like free snacks, massages and napping rooms as this generation begins to age.”

The report continues, “’When asked to rank financial security against other ‘traditional’ aspects of work-life balance, millennials chose financial security (33 percent) as their top priority — above other factors like hours worked (19 percent), schedule flexibility (19 percent) and ability to work from home (6 percent),’ Eagle Hill reports. They’ll choose making more money over getting from time off from work — 80 percent said they’d rather keep nose to the grindstone and make more dough rather than time time off.”

In considering your current position, or looking to create more flexibility for yourself in your next position or new career solutions, negotiating for flex time upfront is key. According to Top Resume, “Not negotiating can cost you as much as half a million dollars over your professional life, says Linda Babcock, a Carnegie Mellon University economics professor. According to her research, only 12 percent of women negotiate salary compared to 52 percent of men.”

As Glorai Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, reminds her Power Tool #2 of the 9 Power Tools To Advance Your Career, “ Define your own terms.” This can be creating a flex time schedule that works best for your life and career path.

Regardless of age or gender, and whether you roll out of bed and get right to your laptop or commute to a more traditional work environment with colleagues, you can hopefully make a decision that works for your life.

While flex time has many benefits for working mothers, freelancers and entrepreneurs, offering truly helpful career solutions, it can have its down sides.

“If there’s competition in the office or if the boss never takes time off, employees may feel pressured to not use the program, and this can lead to a workaholic culture, says Angela Howell, author of Finding the Gift: Daily Meditations for Mindfulness,” according to Fast Company.

“At least with nine-to-five employees, there’s a suggested starting and stopping point, and a realistic gauge of what’s acceptable productivity in a regular workday,” Howell says.

If you are the boss, then it is up to you to see that your employees are making the best use of their time, meeting the goals and also able to reach life balance.

Andre Lavoie, CEO and co-founder of Clear Company writes in Entrepreneur, “A 2016 survey of 250 companies from Geckoboard found that companies that keep employees aware of key metrics and set clear objectives are demonstrating one of the top important factors that contributes to company growth. When employees are aware and given specific targets to aim for, they are more engaged in their work and motivated, because they know what success looks like.”

And in terms of achieving optimal flextime outcomes that work for both employees and the entrepreneurs who engage them, Lavoie writes, “Find what options work for your employees, their teams and immediate supervisors plus their clients or colleagues. Then put the decision into employees’ hands. Perhaps flextime is best for their schedule. Maybe working remotely from a home office will give them some relief as they take care of young children. If several employees want flexibility, job-sharing may be the best solution.”

Perhaps the productivity that flex time workers are celebrating may be simply that they are working longer and better.

Cali Williams Yost, CEO of Flex+Strategy Group, a flexible workplace consultant, tells Fast Company: “As a result a majority who work flexible hours are flying by the seat of their pants,” she says. “To optimize the potential of flexibility you first have to know what it is you are trying to achieve on and off the job. Then, you can determine how working flexibly can help you get there as productively as possible.”

About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon www.micheleweldon.com