In short, no. Despite negative perceptions of the impact of flexible working on careers, our recent research has found that improved work-life balance can improve a professional’s productivity and make it easier to pursue their next career step.
According to the findings of the Hays Gender Diversity Report 2017, 75% of women working in accountancy and finance careers think that opting to work flexibly will limit their chances of career progression in the future. 65% of men also believed that they would be negatively affected by opting to work flexibly, but thought that women would be less severely affected than themselves. The negative perceptions of flexible working from both men and women are making people reluctant to take up this option, potentially leading to increased stress, lower morale, and possibly even greater inequality in the workplace.
Flexible working improves representation
Curiously, while both men and women believe flexible working can damage a career, 65% of accountancy and finance professionals concur that flexible working options have helped to improve the representation of women in executive and leadership roles. 47% of professionals also believed that implementation of flexible working policies at an organisation would lead to significant gender equality.
Why then does the negative perception of flexible working as a limiting force persist, even when so many also believe it to be a highly effective tool to better diversity and gender equality?
According to the findings of the Gender Diversity Report 2017, the problem lies in communication and awareness. 68% of accountancy and finance professionals identified direct communication from executive teams and senior management as the most effective way to raise awareness and understanding of diversity and inclusion programmes, including flexible working.
Optimise communications to encourage uptake
Senior managers, executive staff and line managers, once properly informed about available policies and any associated negative perceptions, can help to actively promote flexible working options to professionals who need it so that both genders feel able to adopt flexible working where available whilst also progressing their careers.
This will help to ensure that both men and women can balance their careers with their home lives and benefit from the greater productivity, morale and improved company culture that would result from greater uptake of flexible working.