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Flexible jobs can make work-life balance worse, a German study finds

Aktualisiert: 24. Sept 2019


Is this correct to say ? You may work longer in home office but quality of life is different, isn't it ?

It seems like a no-brainer. Flexible working should improve your work-life balance, right? A study from Germany suggests the reverse might be true.

That flexible working should turn out to be a cause of overwork may come as no surprise to those familiar with the law of unintended consequences.

A study of German workers has found that men, in particular, work longer hours when working flexibly. Working from home, it turns out, is characterized by early starts and late finishes.

Research by the Hans Böckler Foundation found that men and women with children use flexible working differently. Men, on average, do four hours unpaid overtime a week when working flexibly. Women average one hour overtime a week.

Working from home made the problem even worse with men averaging six hours overtime per week while women added one hour. Women with children tended to spend more time on childcare when working flexibly, adding one and a half hours of childcare when working flexibly and three hours when working from home.

Men working flexibly do less childcare

For men, flexible working made little difference to their contribution to childcare. In fact men working flexibly spent less time on childcare than those doing office hours, while home workers spent the same amount of time on childcare as office-based colleagues.

Both men and women reported that flexible working left them with less free time than working conventional hours.

“Work flexibility helps make job and family more compatible, but it can simultaneously cement the classic role divisions between men and women, or even make them stronger," said the study's author Yvonne Lott, of the Foundation's Institute of Economic and Social Research.

The double burden for women of working and caring for children is negligible for men, Lott added. The study was based on interviews with 30,000 parents in Germany over a 13-year period.

Written by

Douglas Broom, Senior Writer, Formative Content

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

© 2018 by beat schori managementberatung & coaching Ltd.

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