In Praise of Flexible Workplace Cultures
Last week, I wrote about work-family culture, and the questions The Families and Work Institute uses to assess this part of organizational culture. I hope you enjoyed it (and I can wait for you here if you want to refer back. Ok, ready?). Now, here are the Families and Work Institute’s measures for general autonomy and flexibility:
I have the freedom to decide what I do on my job
It is basically my own responsibility to decide how my job gets done
I have a lot of say about what happens on my job
How easy is it for you to take time off during your workday to take care of personal or family matters (I reworded this item to keep the response scale consistent)
Now, let’s think about these, in comparison to the work-family questions from the prior post.
While “work-family” support is critically important, I think (and have found in my own research) that general support for flexibility and autonomy (as reflected in these items) is just as effective for helping fathers deal with work-family concerns as “work-family” culture (and I say this as an advocate for more “family-supportive” workplaces)
My research also suggests that because an overall workplace approach towards general flexibility is NOT specific to work-family, it lessens the resistance “old-school” managers and cultures may have for “soft stuff” issues. General flexibility is less likely to be seen as a “mommy track women’s issue” as opposed to a serious issue that affects us all- men and women alike.
In short, generally flexible employers give working parents (and especially dads, who feel pressures against availing themselves to parental leave and other “visible” work-family accommodations) the flexibility they need to better balance work and family. And because general flexibility doesn’t sound like a “mommy” issue, such support, for many fathers, is often easier to ask for, and to come by. Future posts will focus on how to negotiate for additional workplace flexibility, so stay tuned.
So, how do you feel about the flexibility you have at work? How does your employer stack up? Let’s discuss in the comments section.