Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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Promotion? No thanks, I like my flexibility

Published 15 February 2013 09:25, Updated 16 April 2013 13:30

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Promotion? No thanks, I like my flexibility

Employees are turning down promotions because they carry no pay increase and because flexibility is being valued more highly. Photo: Louie Douvis

Promotions used to be the great acknowledgment. You’d get tapped on the shoulder and know that you were swaggering on your way to a bigger, brighter future.

Today? Not so much. “Wow” could be replaced with a “Meh”.

In fact, people are now knocking back promotions because the bigger job would interfere with their ability to have flexible working hours, says the managing director of recruitment agency Ambition, Technology, Andy Cross.

A survey of 900 IT workers by the company has uncovered the fact that employers are under-estimating the importance of work-life balance.

More than half the workers (56 per cent) say they would forgo a promotion in order to work flexible hours - although it is not beyond the bounds of possibility, in a motivated organisation, that they could have both.

Cross says this result could also indicate that bosses are trying to get people to take on bigger jobs without offering a corresponding rise in remuneration.

“In taking a promotion, they are getting no actual benefit for it,” he says. It is just more work for no more money.

It seems that some employers have also not “got with the program” when it comes to the many advantages of flexible working. Cross says he was disappointed and surprised to find that 27 per cent of employers don’t actually offer any flexible working arrangements and 50 per cent say their employer offers no benefits (other than, obviously, a salary) at all.

“Employees want benefits that go beyond flexible hours. Our research shows that workers would like to be able to work from home, bring their own devices, purchase additional leave and get discounts on gym memberships and insurance,” he says.­

Cross says the perceived lack of benefits does not reflect his conversations with corporate leaders and it is possible that, while the CEOs believe they offer flexibility, the message is not getting through the layers of middle management to those who desire it.

Although flexible working options may be available in company policies, there can be an “unwritten rule” that it is not appropriate to take advantage of them.

“For managers, there is a fear of losing control and to give flexibility forces you to trust that individual. They see it as a risk.”

“Many employers worry about the company’s network security or don’t trust that their staff will be as productive when working from home or outside standard business hours,” says Cross.

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