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Workplace flexibility is lauded by organisations for its contribution to high-performance and creating more inclusive workplaces (Ortega, 2009).
For employees, research has shown that flexible working practices can have both positive and negative impacts, ranging from greater work-life balance and increased income (Michel, Kotrba, Mitchelson, Clark & Baltes, 2011)to increased over-time and work intensity (Kelliher & Anderson, 2010). One example of workplace flexibility is schedule control, a practice which enables an employee to control when as well as the amount of work done. This can assist employees to schedule work to match times of high productivity, and to balance work/family needs.
Dr Yvonne Lott (Hans-Bockler Foundation, Germany) and Dr Heejung Chung (University of Kent, UK) sought to examine whether men and women receive the same financial rewards when they gain more control over their work hours. Using survey data from more than 30,000 individuals in Germany, Lott and Chung found that when working full-time, men and women invest the same amount of additional hours in overtime, however men gain more than three times more pay per annum than women for extra hours worked.
In essence, the lure of changing from a fixed schedule of work to one with more control is associated with financial benefits, but those benefits are not distributed equally between men and women.
The research aimed to examine the gendered outcomes of the use of schedule control focusing on both increased income and increased overtime.
Data was obtained through an annual survey conducted by the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) encompassing a representative sample of 12,000 German households and approximately 32,000 individuals. The research analysed responses from individuals who were employed, with contracted working hours, relating to measures of overtime, income, and type of working-time arrangements for individuals. Relationships between these variables and genders were examined to identify potential differences.
By way of background context, in Germany women are more likely than men to work part-time, 37.8 per cent of women worked part time in 2012, and experience pay inequity, 18.7 per cent in 2009 (OECD, 2013). In the sample studied, 95% of men were working full-time.
The two main findings emerging from the research were: (1) Both men and women undertake similar overtime hours when given control over their working schedules, and (2) Women benefit significantly less than men from increased income as a result of schedule control.
These findings define the two key risks associated with greater working time autonomy: increased overtime and reinforcement of the gender income pay gap. It seems likely that the risk of overtime is expected by employees anticipating a move from fixed to autonomous schedules, but the gender disparity is probably hidden.
In addition to shared financial motivations, the authors suggest that women are more likely than men to seek-out a change from fixed to autonomous scheduling in order to gain a higher level of control over work/life balance (and particularly parenting responsibilities). On this basis, women may accept the trade-off of overtime for control.
Nevertheless, the authors also suggest that managerial and organisational biases may influence wage disparities. “Beyond workers own motivations, this discrepancy may be due to employers’ discriminatory perceptions. Thus, even when women use schedule control for performance goals and increase their overtime hours and/or work intensity when gaining schedule control, their efforts might not be perceived as such by employers who might hold traditional gender role ideals”, said the authors.
Checks and balances will help organisations to ensure that stereotypes do not influence financial rewards, particularly those which reinforce and magnify pay inequity.
While flexible working arrangements can provide many positive benefits for employees and organisations alike, this research shows that the story isn’t as simple as it seems. Constantly challenging and reflecting on the effects of social norms will ensure organisations don’t unwittingly disadvantage a group of individuals through what are intended as inclusive practices. A deeper understanding of the differing impacts between genders will be vital in ensuring organisations are truly moving towards a more inclusive workplace.
For more information, contact Justin Barcelon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To read the full article, see Lott, Y. and Chung, H., (2016). Gender discrepancies in the outcomes of schedule control on overtime hours and income in Germany. European Sociological Review, 32(6), pp.752-765.
Justin Barcelon a Graduate within the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting Australia. In this role he primarily works within the Organisational Transformation & Talent offering with experience mainly across Public Sector clients. Justin has an undergraduate background in Psychology, with a keen understanding of research and statistics and an interest in areas of Organisational Psychology.