Flexible working arrangements are highly valued by today’s workers. In fact, in most surveys flexibility is one of the most prized benefits offered to employees. In our 2011 study, working fathers ranked flexible work arrangements even higher in importance than career advancement opportunities or high income. Since career development and earnings are often the most critical characteristics people look for when assessing job options, the fact that flexibility was ranked higher than these speaks to its importance to today’s fathers.
When we studied types of flexible work arrangements and their usage by fathers, we found that dads are significantly less likely than mothers to work part-time; however, fathers do avail themselves of other forms of workplace flexibility. We found that more than three-quarters of fathers reported using flex-time, 57% worked from home at least some part of their time and 27% utilized compressed workweeks. Fathers reported being much more likely to use flexible work arrangements informally rather than formally (i.e. using flexibility without applying for formal permission to do so). For example, 4 out of 5 of the fathers who worked from home did so on an informal basis. It seems clear that men value a culture that embraces flexibility and one that allows them to utilize it without a great deal of red tape.
A 2014 study of 1,000 men by Working Mother Research Institute found that flexibility pays continual dividends to men, as it does with women. Across 11 different categories of work satisfaction, men whose employers allow flexible work arrangements report feeling significantly more satisfied than those who say their employers could offer flexibility but do not. The majority of men in this study also reported that flexible work arrangements improve their productivity (85%), morale (84%), loyalty (82%), relationships with co-workers (77%), team communications (81%), and overall job satisfaction (86%).
Although, as we have pointed out, being a “conspicuous caregiver” can have negative career consequences, making use of available flexible work arrangements does not seem to have the same impact.
In fact, research by Konrad and Yang (2011) suggests that using flexibility can have positive consequences, at least in the long-term. Utilizing longitudinal data from the Workplace and Employee Survey, which consists of a representative sample of 14,920 Canadian male and female employees, the authors found that flex benefit utilization may actually be positively related to receiving a future promotion. Flexible scheduling, reducing one’s work hours, and work at home were each significantly and positively related to the probability of receiving a promotion. They also found that fathers with one young child who used flexible work hours had 16% greater odds of receiving a promotion than men without children. The authors argue that the results of their work point to the long-term benefits of optimizing employee performance via flexibility offerings, despite potential short-term stigmatization.