Flex Work: A Growing Trend or Thing of the Past?

By FOXBusiness

Flexible telecommuting policies have become a more common offering from corporations, but that doesn’t mean employees, particularly working mothers, are taking advantage of the benefit.

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Multimedia company  Working Mother Media’s “How We Flex” report released Tuesday found that 53% of companies nationwide offer flextime benefits—the option to work from home--to their employees. Two-third of working mothers responded saying they have the opportunity to use flex time, but only 37% actually take advantage of the perk, the report finds.

Corporate work-from-home policies have been in the headlines recently as companies look to attract and retain workers in a still recovering labor market.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ)  reportedly backtracked on its flextime and telecommuting policies last week by reigning in the number of workers who can work at home.

According to All Things D, the computer company sent a memo to workers telling them it needs “all hands on deck” and wants employees who can work in the office to come in. The tech website also reports the move is not a company-wide policy, but that workers who wish to work from home will need approval from higher-level managers than in the past. The policy shift mirrors what Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) announced in February when it ended its telecommuting policy shortly after Marissa Mayer became CEO.

The survey claims flex-time benefits have positive effects in companies where managers take advantage of the flexibility. Seventy one percent of working moms whose managers work from home say they are satisfied with their job security, compared to 65% of working moms overall. The same number (71%) report they were satisfied with the support they received from their managers in meeting family demands from managers who work from home, compared to 63% of working moms. In addition more women with managers who worked from home were satisfied with their compensation (58%) compared to working moms overall (52%).

The survey was tabulated by Bonnier Custom Insights from 1,516 responses from working mothers.

Carol Evans, president of Working Mother Media, says that while flex time is continuing to become more popular across workplaces in America, it’s still not fully accepted.

“There is still an issue of stigma, we know men take more advantage of flextime than women,” Evans says. “Men feel like they can have their career perfectly fine and still flex. Women are scared they might be seen as less valuable or that they may not go as far if they flex.”

To overcome this stigma, workplaces need to be more accepting of flextime.

Women who are in executive positions more frequently take advantage of formal flextime arrangements (66%), compared to 48% of women in professional and technical positions. Those in administrative positions take advantage of these arrangements even less, with only 34% saying they use flextime.

“I think this is a power thing,” Evans says. “People who have executive positions are higher up the ladder feel more empowered by their 24/7 attitude and oftentimes aren’t as tied to the desk as admins are. It’s a matter of feeling empowered to take flextime.”

As for H-P’s decision, Evans says she is disappointed and distressed at the alleged memo, especially with Meg Whitman at the helm.

“It’s a step back,” she says. “When high-profile companies, led by women, pull back on flex it’s a deep blow.”

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