It’s time to get over the notion that most people working from home are moms who squeeze reports and conference calls in between children’s games and Cheerios.
A new survey shows that men vastly outnumber women in remote work—either from home, a coffee shop, a co-working or business center. And the Flex+Strategy Group survey also found that childless workers and parents almost equally commute down a flight of stairs to work.
“I have always known that flexibility itself is gender neutral,” says Cali Williams Yost, CEO of Flex+Strategy, a firm that consults with employers. “But the primary work-remote person is very much more likely to be a man.”
Its research shows 36% of men say they do most of their work from remote places including home, compared to 23% of women. (Men represent about 53% of the US labor force and more than two-thirds of all commuters, according to Flex+Strategy’s survey.) The telephone survey by ORC International queried 556 full-time US workers.
Other surveys show similar results. A Harris Interactive poll last year indicated 37% of men and 31% of women spent some time working from home—though women were more likely to agree with positive statements about telework. Almost two-thirds of workers told Harris that working from home improved productivity and work output.
“It’s easier to say flexibility’s about moms, about women, then we don’t have to deal with it” at larger companies, Williams Yost says. She thinks women may be reluctant to request work from home arrangements, fearing they will be shunted onto the “mommy track.” Her survey results show women are more likely to work in open floor plan and cubicles in workplaces, the same group that said they were least likely to use flexibility.
One Harvard economist believes the flexibility, especially in traditional fields, comes at a high cost. Yet telecommuting jobs are growing and plentiful, especially at companies such as Xerox and Aetna.
The message to business leaders who are not sold on the fundamental shift to more flexible work arrangements: “Flexibility, including telework, is not a policy; it’s not perk or a program,” says Williams Yost, the author of two books Tweak It and Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You. “It’s a way of operating your business, and increasingly a core strategy” that applies to all.