Who Wants Flexible Work? Men

Last Updated Aug 26, 2011 10:26 AM EDT

As we approach Labor Day, we'll likely be treated to a host of musings on how the workplace has changed over the years. Different organizations will throw out statistics on hours worked, opinions on the labor market, unemployment, etc.

I've been wading through many of these lately. Here's one that caught my eye. According to MomCorps, a staffing organization that places people in non-traditional jobs, 42% of American workers would trade some percentage of their salary for flexibility at work. All working mommies, right? Well, no. If you ask people if they'd be willing to give up more than 10% of their salary in exchange for flexibility, men are twice as likely as women to say yes.

Granted, the numbers are small (12% vs. 6%). But why the direction of the difference?

I have a few theories. Men still earn more than women, so they have more wiggle room in salary negotiations in general -- which makes giving up 10% not seem like as big a deal. Men also work more hours than women, so their work lives may feel less sustainable than women's right now. Or this could be a feint at the "masculine mystique" that a few pundits have written about lately. The domestic expectations placed on modern men these days are huge compared with their fathers or grandfathers. But they haven't really gotten a big break at work to compensate.

Regardless, though, I think these questions are asked the wrong way. Because why should flexibility be a perk that requires giving up salary to get? There's some evidence that people who can work from home and set their own hours are willing to work more than people stuck in cubicles. They may be less likely to leave their employers, too. Those are attributes worth paying more for, rather than less. No matter what gender you happen to be.

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Photo courtesy flickr user, yago1.com

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