Should flexible work schedules result in lower pay? Women have differing opinions regarding this topic, and some are more surprising than others. I would put myself in the latter category.
Spectrem recently completed research with wealthy women. In this research, approximately 85% of the women worked full-time and of those working full-time, almost three-quarters were working because they wanted to work not because they had to work. Keep this in mind as we explore some of the survey results.
When asked on a scale of 0-100, with 100 meaning “Very much agree”, women ranked their response to the question “Employees who have flexible work schedules built around their families should not be paid the same as those who don’t have such schedules” at 38.47. Therefore, most wealthy women feel that those with flexible schedules should, for the most part, be paid the same as others.
I agree with this, however, I think there should be some “restrictions”. We offer flexible schedules at Spectrem Group and we try to be sensitive to the family needs of our employees. But there are various levels of flexibility that we are willing to offer. First, some of the flexibility is based on the longevity of the employee. It makes me really uncomfortable when a new employee asks for lots of flexibility because I’m not really sure about that person’s work ethic. Flexibility also means that employees may need to finish something at home or over the weekend. If the company has a major deadline, that employee may need to give up some of their flexibility. So true flexibility is earned. But if someone came to me when interviewing and contractually asked for flexibility, I may consider a lower salary because that person hasn’t truly been tested.
Wealthy women ranked “Employers should do more to cater and accommodate working families through time off and flexible schedules” at 68.60 on the 0-100 scale. Millennials and Gen Xers ranked this at 70.84. Clearly younger working women are looking for these accommodations. This is primarily due to the challenges of raising a family and working at the same time. Employers who are not currently allowing for flexible schedules are going to need to determine how to accommodate employees who need flexibility or potentially lose out on a talented part of the workforce. Some jobs allow for flexibility; others do not. For example, some jobs require working collaboratively with co-workers. In those cases, the employee needs to be able to plan meetings and work hours in a way that meets both their needs and the company’s goals. Jobs such as nursing and teaching, however, may not be able to allow as much flexibility.
Finally, one of the more controversial questions was regarding the response to the following: “People who take time off from their careers to raise their families should not, upon their return to the workforce, expect to receive the same wages as those who never left the workforce.” Women scored this topic at a 48.93, meaning slightly more women disagreed with the statement than those who agreed. Professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants) and Managers were the most likely to support this idea scoring 51.06 and 51.49 respectively. In these types of professions, learning from experience and keeping up to date with industry trends and recent regulations and other issues is often critical. In contrast, those in the Health Care field and Educators supported the idea (46.43 and 38.98). Overall, Baby Boomers were most likely to believe those who took off time from the workforce should not be compensated the same as those who continued working.
As a mother who worked while raising my children, I do believe that women who took time off should be compensated less on their return to the workforce. (By less, I mean they should be paid whatever the job compensates for years of experience as of the time they left the workforce). I would like to believe that the battle scars I received during the time I continued to work have some type of value in how I approach challenges and projects in my professional life. But I also feel that I am in an industry that continues to change and more experience is better than less. That being said, I also believe there are situations and jobs that are different than mine in which the opposite is true. I also benefitted from a flexible work environment that allowed me to attend my children’s events and to be there at critical times.
Overall, flexibility will become increasingly important. When connecting with others face-to-face is as easy as clicking a link on one’s laptop, both employers and employees need to be prepared for a changing work environment.