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Female staff seeking flexible hours viewed negatively by colleagues

Men asking for better work-life balance are more likely than women to be viewed positively by their colleagues.

In fact, new research has found women who request time off to look after family are viewed as a lot less likeable than men asking for exactly the same thing.

A study from Furman University asked 650 people between the ages of 19 and 65 to read transcripts of a conversation between an employee and an HR person. In some of these transcripts, the employees requested a flexible work arrangement - either working from home, or coming in early and leaving early three days a week in order to care for children.

After reading these conversations, the participants were asked how likely they would be to grant their requests.

Surprisingly, when staff asked to work from home for childcare reasons, nearly 70% of participants said they would be "very likely" or "likely" to approve the request if it was made by a man.

Only 57% percent said they would grant the request when made by a woman.

In these cases, 24% said men who made such a request were "extremely likeable," while only 3% of participants said women who made such a request were "extremely likeable."

READ MORE: Singaporean men need to embrace flexible working

"These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work," said study author Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University in Greenville, S.C, in a press release.

Around 15% of participants said women who made these flex time requests were "not at all" or "not very" committed to their jobs, while only about 3% percent of participants said the same about men who made the same request.

"Today, we think of women's responsibilities as including paid labour and domestic obligations, but we still regard breadwinning as men's primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of childcare or to other household tasks," Munsch said.

The study also found both women and men who requested greater work flexibility were viewed more favourably when it was for childcare-related reasons, rather than other reasons like reducing their commute time.

READ MORE: Would you give up a promotion for work-life balance?

Image: Shutterstock

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