Monday, January 4, 2016

Will Flextime Make You Sick?

Apparently, the idea was better in theory than in practice. Since women take on more responsibility for bringing up children and caring for elderly parents, they must, if they are not to be penalized at work, have more flexibility about when they are at the office.

If your child needs you at home or if you need to pick up your child from piano lessons, you need to have the flexibility to pick up and leave the office, at will. The point seems to be that women should not only be able to keep their jobs but that they should be able to continue on the same career path as their male colleagues.

Others have tried to solve the problem by promoting telecommuting, practice that tends to turn the workplace into a ghost town.

And naturally, someone or other produced studies that showed that flex time was a good thing, that it enhanced productivity, increased profits and made everyone happy.

Of course, it was not true. We should all be skeptical when research studies affirm ideological prejudices. The advent of flex time seems to be a way for women to have it all. Assuming, of course, that anyone can or should have it all.

Recent studies, reported by the Daily Mail tell a different story:

Flexible hours can make employees ill because they find it harder to switch off from their work, experts have said. 

Working away from the office or part-time can create an 'always on' culture that keeps stress hormones persistently high, they claim. 

Their arrangements can also irritate colleagues who feel flexible workers have a cushier work-life balance and so could leave them isolated socially. 

If some members of the team are present at the beginning of the work day while others are at home balancing their work with their lives, those who are in the office will resent those who are not. In many cases those who are present will feel less inclined to communicate with those who are absent. This might create a hostile atmosphere that will undermine productivity or profitability.

It’s a tale of two spaces, the space that is dedicated to work and nothing but work, and the space that constitutes home. New research has suggested that women who take advantage of flexible time feel that they are constantly “on.” They feel that work their focus is divided and that work has invaded their home lives.

This increases your stress and risks making you sick.

The report continues:

Professor Gail Kinman, a health psychologist at the University of Bedfordshire, told The Guardian: 'If you keep picking at work, worrying about it, your systems never really go down to baseline so you don't recover properly.

'You might sleep, but you don't sleep properly, the effectiveness of your immune system reduces. There are studies that suggest people want a quick way to relax, which is when they tend to drink alcohol and might turn to comfort food.' 

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the question remains undecided. The new study should at least sow some doubt with those who believe that flextime will allow women to bring up their children and to care for their parents while not having to sacrifice any part of their careers.

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

Maybe we should ask "Will Motherhood Make You Sick?"

Oh, but we have to be careful in our public sensitivities. The Guardian says mothers need to stop whining. They're making childless women feel worse.

So it's a matter of perspective and getting sick is a small price to pay for the lucky ones.