WaPo Imagines Flex Time Problem
The Washington Post reported March 22 on how workers are feeling pressure not to ask for, or take advantage of, flexible work schedules or other family-friendly benefits. Reporter Annys Shin writes:
In good times, workers frequently seized the opportunity to use “flex time” and family leave, to telecommute and to take paid sick days. But, according to workplace consultants, human resources specialists and employees themselves, those days are slipping away. More workers are giving up those arrangements, or resisting asking about them in the first place, out of fears that doing so will make them appear less committed to their work and therefore more expendable.
She goes on to note that “there is little data on the recession’s impact on so-called work-life initiatives in the private sector,” but bases the article instead on “anecdotal evidence”. This evidence isn’t even of employers “formally suspending programs,” but mostly from employees who “feel pressure” not to take advantage of such benefits.
It’s certainly possible that employers are reducing workplace flexibility, or penalizing employees for using benefits, in reaction to the economic downturn. Yet this article doesn’t provide much solid evidence that we should reach that conclusion. In fact, it includes counter-examples that some employers are pushing for greater use of telecommuting to cut overhead costs (Nortel Networks and Federal Express) and others (Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase) that are maintaining existing programs in spite of having to conduct layoffs.
This article highlights how women are disproportionately affected by a turn-away from flexible work schedules. While that’s certainly true, and women have had their share of hardship from the recession, a balanced article might have also noted that in fact men’s unemployment, not women’s, has been on the rise. According to the New York Times, men have suffered more than 80 percent of job losses since the start of the recession.