A first look at long-term effects of flex time

There has long been a suspicion that the careers of people, usually women, who chose to use flexible work arrangements would suffer in the long run.

But the first reports from long-term users of these arrangements suggests this is not necessarily so.

The success of some of the pioneers of flex arrangements, 10 years after they first began to set the course, suggests career progress may plateau for a while. But by using flexible arrangements to work part time, for example, women should be able to maintain career momentum, said Marcia Brumit Kropf, vice-president of research and information services for Catalyst, a New York-based non-profit organization committed to the advancement of women in the business world.

Catalyst has been tracking the careers of 24 women who first started using flexible work arrangements in 1989. Now, 10 years later, all of the women hold mid- or senior-level positions and more than half have earned promotions during the last decade. Twenty of the 24 women say they are happy with their non-work lives.

By retaining their network and their connections with the company, by keeping their foot in the door, women should be able to maintain a challenging career, as long as their employer is supportive.

Brumit Kropf said that “even though working mothers may reduce career involvement for a period of time — with the support of the right company — career advancement does not have to get sidelined.”

Many companies have not figured out how to adapt to people using flex time. “It’s important for the employee to be able to say this arrangement isn’t appropriate to me,” said Brumit Kropf and to be able to negotiate a new one. However, the arrangement should evolve to what’s appropriate for both the employee and the company.

Too often, if an employee working part time isn’t around for a meeting, the flexible work arrangement gets blamed but a badly scheduled meeting is the problem, said Brumit Kropf.

What’s more, some women still have to deal with the stereotype that if you work part time you can’t be committed to the profession, she said.

Because of the small sample, Catalyst admits that the findings in Flexible Work Arrangements III, are not conclusive but it is the first look at the career paths of long-term users of flexible work arrangements and is intended to generate hypotheses and discussion about the long-term effects of flexible work arrangements.

Latest stories