Women slower to adopt flexible working

2005

Despite a raft of statistics suggesting that flexible working is more prevalent among women than men, new research suggests that women are not adopting flexible working as quickly as their male counterparts.

According to research from YouGov and Microsoft on flexible working in small businesses, only 16 per cent of women work from home, compared with 24 per cent of men, while 56 per cent of women vs. 68 per cent of men currently work flexibly.

The research suggests that men are more aware of the benefits of flexible working, having adopted the practices earlier. Almost seven out of 10 (68 per cent) of men believe that the 9 5 model of working is now out of date compared to fewer than six out of 10 (58 per cent) of women.

"The survey shows a clear trend towards a more flexible small business workforce, where men in particular have embraced the tools and procedures to make flexi-working a success," said John Coulthard, director of small business at Microsoft.

"For the first time small businesses are in a position to challenge much larger and dominant businesses and flexible working helps them do this."

Research earlier this year by business communications provider Mitel suggest that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of decision-makers in small firms are happy for their staff to work remotely compared with only 44 per cent in larger British firms.

The Microsoft survey, which polled over 2,000 UK small business workers working for companies of up to 250 employees, revealed some big differences in terms of the use of technology between the sexes.

For example, fewer than half (47 per cent) of women use a mobile phone for work purposes, compared with seven out of 10 men, and only a quarter have access to a laptop compared with nearly half of male workers.

So are women are not being given the same opportunities in terms of technology that can make flexi-working possible?

While a quarter of women say that lack of proper facilities at home such as broadband make it difficult to embrace flexible working – something that could presumably apply equally to men - a third of women believe that lack of employer investment in technology is a significant barrier to flexible working.

Equally apparent from the research are clear patterns in gender-related working behaviour, with a third of women adamant that their leisure time is their personal time compared to only a quarter of men.

Differences in attitudes towards flexible working between the sexes are also marked. Almost half (47 per cent) of men believe that working flexibly would make them more productive compared to fewer than four out of 10 (37 per cent) of women.

Meanwhile, only one in five women would consider taking a five per cent salary cut in order to work flexibly compared to a third of men.

But both men and women were clear that an improved work-life balance is the biggest benefit of flexible working, a sentiment shared by seven out of 10 of those surveyed.

"Small businesses now need to ensure they are giving all staff, male or female, the most effective tools to let them do an even better job, wherever they may be working from," John Coulthard said.

"By doing this they will encourage skilled female employees to return to work after having a family which benefits both employee and employer."