Study: Dads turning to web work to relieve work-life conflict

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Not too long ago flexible work and work-from-home arrangements were often thought of as a benefit for mothers, allowing working moms more time with their kids. But with Father’s Day just behind us, a new study out of Boston College’s Center for Work and Family reveals that today’s dads are just as likely to need web-enabled flex work solutions.

The center surveyed nearly 1,000 fathers with full-time, white-collar jobs at four Fortune 500 companies about work-life balance issues. Recent articles with gloomy titles like “The End of Men” have painted a troubled picture of contemporary men, but did the Boston College study confirm that contemporary dads are struggling?

In some ways, yes. The researchers note that despite the popular conception that work-life balance stress is worse for moms, in 2008 the National Study of the Changing Workforce found “that fathers in dual-earner couples feel significantly greater work-life conflict than mothers, and this level of conflict has risen steadily.”

Men, it seems, are as ambitious as ever at work, with nearly 20 percent of the survey respondents saying they work 55 hours or more per week. Seventy-six percent want to advance, and 53 percent report feeling that they are constantly working against the pressure of time. At the same time, men were also increasingly likely to take their home responsibilities seriously: For instance, two-thirds of respondents agreed with the statement “To me, my work is only a small part of who I am,” and 77 percent would like to spend more time with their kids.

With fathers increasingly squeezed, flexibility and web work are coming to the rescue, at least informally. The researchers found:

  • Sixty percent of the fathers said they felt comfortable bringing up personal/family issues with their managers, and nearly the same number felt their supervisor was supportive of employees using flexible work arrangements.
  • More than three-quarters of fathers reported using flextime on either a formal or informal basis, 57 percent worked from home at least some part of the time, and 27 percent utilized compressed workweeks.
  • Fathers who utilized flexible work arrangements, either formally or informally, had higher job satisfaction and higher career satisfaction than those who did not.

The researchers conclude that “clearly there are still some obstacles that are restricting the use of [telecommuting and flexible hours],” and they recommend that employers fully embrace these arrangements. “Employees with schedule flexibility and the ability to work from home were often able to work 8–16 more hours per week than employees without such flexibility,” note the authors.

Is web work a solution to the conflicts of modern fatherhood?

Image courtesy Flickr user Lars Ploughmann

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