Recent reports of Internet giant Yahoo's plans to eliminate telecommuting have created a media storm. Coincidentally, an article in winter edition of Rotman Magazine provides an interesting perspective on the disconnect between what companies say about flexible work arrangements and what they actually do in practice. The article, co-authored by three academics who specialize in work flexibility issues (see below), is based on an academic paper to be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Social Issues.
For example, research shows that while flexibility programs have become widespread - almost 80% of American companies say they allow at least some employees to arrange flexible starting or quitting times - fewer than 20% of employees actually have those sorts of arrangements. One of the biggest reasons for the low usage of flexible work options is what the authors call "the flexibility stigma," fears (well-founded as the authors show) of negative career repercussions in the form of wage penalties, fewer promotions and less favourable performance appraisals. The story also outlines the different ways in which the flexibility stigma affects men and women.
About the co-author
Jennifer Berdahl is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the Rotman School of Management.
Mary Blair-Loy: Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies and Founding Director of the Center for Research on Gender in the Professions at the University of California, San Diego.
Joan Williams, a Distinguished Professor of Law, UC Hastings Foundation Chair and Director of the Center for Work Life at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law.