Spilling over? Policies, Practices, and Supervisor Influence on Employer Flexible Work Arrangements

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Krista BRUMLEY, Wayne State University, USA
Economic shifts have restructured workplaces in ways that fundamentally alter employee work and family experiences. Greater demands at work put more pressure on families, and in turn, work-family conflict can lead to high turnover, burnout, and job-related stress. Businesses are reexamining workplace conditions to accommodate working families, but policies and practices are still implemented in a market-driven model to maintain efficiency, productivity, and profit. This paper examines the link between flexible work arrangements and the gendered division of paid and unpaid work. Using in-depth, qualitative interviews with women and men employees in professional, managerial, and executive level positions at U.S. multinational corporations in the Detroit, Michigan metropolitan area, I find tension between corporations’ intent to mitigate work-family conflict and the ever-present standards of the “ideal worker norm” – long hours, visibility, and work before family. These work pressures make it difficult to change the household division of labor. Employee narratives show how policies/practices are uneven and arbitrary, even within the same company, revealing the consequences of gendered paid and unpaid work expectations for both women and men. Consequently, employees struggle to find greater balance. Employee experiences also raise questions on the effectiveness of parental leave and other flexible work arrangements. That is, policies alone do not reshape how families navigate paid and unpaid work; supervisors play a key role in the process, exacerbated by the lack of U.S. federal standards for parental leave such that employees are left to rely on flexible work arrangements. This study calls for more consistent policy development and implementation to effectively promote gender equality at a broader level.