Career consultant Andrea Kay offers her viewpoint of telecommuting and flextime based on the experiences of a number of her clients. One client, for example, works a flexible working arrangement for a Fortune 500 company. Her supposed 20 hours per week results in 35-40 percent less pay than her peers, a lost promotion and 30-32 hours worked by the time she resolves issues that seem to arise just before she leaves for home. Add to that the fact that she now pays her own healthcare benefits and the potential down side of nontraditional working arrangements becomes very clear.

In a recent study conducted by Families and Work Institute in New York, nearly 40 percent of workers said that employees who use flexible work options are less likely to get ahead in the careers. A separate study by the Boston Globe confirms this. Another seven-year study of 324 working mothers found managers and professionals who “teleworked or worked part-time even for some part of that span suffered dramatic wage gaps compared to peers,” making 27 percent less than office workers in similar situations. Under such circumstances, telecommuting and flextime programs seem predisposed to failure.

The author calls for more care in structuring telecommuting and flextime arrangements and for training managers to have both skills and an open mind in regards to the programs so that employees don’t get penalized for participation.

Source: Andrea Kay, Gannett News Service; May 13, 2004

Full Text: COPYRIGHT USA Today Information Network, May 13, 2004

As it turns out, flex time, part time and alternative work options that have been gaining ground the last 10 years come with their share of penalties. Just ask some of the benefactors.

Take my client, Kim, who has worked for a Fortune 500 company nearly 15 years, three of those part-time. Since she negotiated a flexible working arrangement in which she’s supposed to work 20 hours, she has not only lost out on a promotion, but is paid 35 to 40 percent less than her peers. And she hardly ever works just 20 hours.

“I consistently work 30 to 32 hours a week. So I end up working about 75 percent of the time and get paid for half time.”

Why not just leave the office at the end of her 20 hours? “I have to resolve any issues before I leave for the day. And my work load and role is really full time.”

Working more hours than planned creates another dilemma, which is the extra time Kim has to pay for child care for her 4-year-old daughter. This is on top of the $6,000 she pays for her own health care benefits. But like other workers who feel lucky to have the flexibility option, she is hesitant to make a big deal out of it or call it a raw deal.

“You have to walk a fine line between saying you have too much work and need less and your manager saying that maybe this role won’t fit as less than full time. You just don’t see a lot of managers who are willing to have a less than full-time person.”

She adds that just because a company has a reduced work schedule plan doesn’t mean individual managers buy into it.

In a recent study conducted by Families and Work Institute in New York, nearly 40 percent of workers said that employees who use flexible work options are less likely to get ahead in their jobs and careers. And in a separate study reported in The Boston Globe, an article says their “sense of jeopardy may be well-grounded, at least for working mothers.”

The seven-year study of 324 working mothers, conducted by sociologist Jennifer Glass, concurs with what my client says about her wage gap. Those managers and professionals who “teleworked or worked part time even for some part of that span suffered dramatic wage gaps compared to peers,” making 27 percent less than office workers in similar positions, says the article.

Even with all the penalties, Kim accepts the inequities because “it keeps my foot in the door by continuing to deliver high visibility results for the company.” And even though her status seems to affect her ability to get promoted, she says it “keeps me on the radar screen for a promotion when the topic does come up.”

But she would like her company to train managers on how to structure a part-time role. She also says it would be good if “they’d teach managers how to not be mad or hold it against the part- time person who can’t make meetings easily outside their normal scheduled hours.”

Kim has no plans to change her work status for now. “My reduced work schedule allows me to take more time for my daughter. I was even able to volunteer once.” And if her four-year old gets sick, “I have enough time not scheduled to work that I can make up any lost work hours.”

The whole point of alternative work options is to help people have more balance, leading to healthier views about their jobs, health and family lives, which has shown to affect retention, performance and safety in the workplace. Many businesses now have programs in place that give workers the flexibility option.

Now, if only those workers who opt for flexibility would not be penalized for it.

Career consultant Andrea Kay is the author of “Greener Pastures: How To Find a Job In Another Place,” “Interview Strategies That Will Get You the Job You Want,” and “Resumes That Will Get You the Job You Want.” Send questions to her at No. 133, 2692 Madison Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208; www.andreakay.com. Email: andrea(AT)andreakay.com.

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