The Flexibility Paradox: Why flexible working leads to more work, and what social policy can do about that

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible working has become the norm for many workers. However, does flexible working really provide a better work-life balance, enhance worker’s well-being and gender equality? Using data from across Europe and drawing from studies across the world, I will evidence how flexible working can lead to workers working longer and harder, with work encroaching on family life. I argue that this is largely due to our current work and work-life balance culture, where long hours work in the office is hailed as the ideal productive worker. This is compounded by the decline in workers’ bargaining power and increased levels of insecurities. Similarly, norms around gender roles and intensive parenting cultures shape how the patterns of exploitation manifests differently for women and men. Women end up exploiting themselves at home by increasing time spent on childcare and housework, reinforcing traditional gender roles. This, and assumptions around women’s flexible working can explain why women and mothers may especially be party to negative career consequences when working flexibly. However, all is not lost. I argue that shifts in institutions, or social policy, can help change the way flexible working is used and its outcomes. Through this, the talk will explore how social policy can help shape our work, work-life balance, and gender role cultures to enable better well-being and social equality outcomes.



This event will be held ONLINE.

DSPI Members will be sent a joining link the day of the event.

All others, please register.