Abstract: Access to Workplace Flexibility: Variations By Gender and Parenthood (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Access to Workplace Flexibility: Variations By Gender and Parenthood

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 8:00 AM
Union Square 22 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Ellen Galinsky, PhD, Senior Research Advisor, Society for Human Resource Management, VA
Ipshita Pal, PhD, Assistant Professor, St. Johns University, Queens, NY
Background/Objectives: Technological advances as well as growing emphases on workplace flexibility have made it easier for employees to manage the demands of work and family; they have also introduced the expectation of constant availability. In this context, we describe the current work and time pressures for U.S. employees as well as their access to workplace flexibility, considering both benefits technically available as well as the workplace culture regarding their use, and focusing on variations by gender and parenthood. Additionally, we examine the association between access to workplace flexibility and employee outcomes, focusing on parents’ time with children.

Methods: We use data from the 2016 National Study of the Changing Workforce (NSCW), a large, nationally representative survey of U.S. employees that allows us to take a comprehensive approach in measuring access to workplace flexibility through 14 items, grouped into components denoting time off, flextime and flexplace, reduced time, choices in managing time and culture of flexibility. While we examine a wide range of outcomes with consequences for both employers and employees, our key outcome of interest is parents’ feelings of time inadequacy: specifically, if they feel their jobs allow for adequate time with children. We report rates of access to various elements of workplace flexibility in each group of employees and whether the differences are statistically significant. We then standardize and aggregate the above items into a composite flexibility index and divide it into three levels – high (top 25% of scores), moderate (middle 50% of scores) and low (bottom 25% of scores). Since more advantaged employees typically have better access to workplace benefits, we additionally employ multinomial logistic regression models to examine the relationship between the level of access to flexibility and parenthood or outcomes, controlling for demographic and socio-economic characteristics.

Findings: We find that over half of all U.S. employees feel time inadequacy, a proportion that is higher among parents and more so, among mothers. We also find differences in rates of access to overall workplace flexibility by parenthood but not by gender, with parents significantly more likely to have access to higher levels of overall workplace flexibility compared to non-parents. There are, however, variations in access to the different elements of flexibility with fathers less likely to have predictable schedules compared to mothers; and women overall more likely to have access to reduced time. Parents are also significantly more likely to have access to a culture of flexibility compared to non-parents. Finally, we find that, for both mothers and fathers, having access to workplace flexibility is associated with a lower likelihood of reporting feelings of time inadequacy regarding children.

Conclusion/Implications: Our findings provide new evidence on the benefits of workplace flexibility for working parents and their children. They further indicate that we have come a long way when it comes to workplace flexibility but still have a long way to go. Areas for improvement include bridging the gap between available policies and the culture regarding their use and recognizing the needs of parents and non-parents.