Intuitively one would imagine a social business to be a diverse and friendly environment. After all, the very tools that often underpin collaborative working enable work to be done flexibly. Location and time matter much less than the output generated, which, one would imagine, would benefit women just as much as it would men.
Except, that doesn’t appear to be the case. A survey published recently by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc. explored the flexible working landscape to see if there were any noticeable demographic trends amongst the cohort of employees that were taking advantage of flexible working.
First the positive news. It found that of the 500 or so people surveyed in full time employment, roughly 1/3 of them do the majority of their work outside of their employers core location. Still a bit low, but that’s not bad.
There was also no significant difference in the age profile of those working remotely, with employees with children no more likely to work remotely than those without. What was interesting however is that 71% of those 150 or so people were men.
According to Cali Williams Yost, CEO of, Flex+Strategy Group, one reason that fewer women work remotely is that they are already afraid of the “mommy track” trap and fear that flexible working might hurt their careers more than it would male colleagues.
It’s a point of view with some credence to it. A study published last year by London Business School and the University of California suggested a person’s chances of gaining a promotion might also be impacted if they are not seen to be in the office.
According to the study, those working from home may get smaller pay rises and lower performance evaluations than those based on site, with the ‘passive face time’ provided by being among colleagues also being of continuing importance.
It seems that flexible working is still largely an unknown quantity, both for the confusion that still seems to surround the productivity of flexible working, but also in the often blanket application of it across the workforce, even to those who may not be suited to it.
Whilst policies and procedures create that all important ‘level playing field’ at work, their drawback is their potential rigidity. To help people flourish at work we need to consider diversity in its broadest sense. People are different, they have different working styles, different personal needs and different work/life demands.