Women and Men Want Time Off from Work

May 22, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Both men and women at some point in their career get an itch to take time off to care for a spouse or a parent or to just set out on their own as entrepreneurs.

That was a key finding of a survey taken by marketing firm Aquent, the Tuck School of Business atDartmouth and Work+Life Fit, Inc.

According to a news release about the study, people who consider taking career breaks and who want more flexibility aren’t an aberration but instead reflect a broader overall shift in the traditional model of workday arrangements and a linear career path – particularly among Gen Xers as compared to Baby Boomers.

Some 63% of respondents said they would consider leaving the workplace for a period of time – a majority of both men (58%) and women (68%). According to the news release, the primary reasons for wanting to temporarily leave the workforce were parenthood (63%), an avocation/life outside of work (43%), stress/burnout (37%), and entrepreneurship (35%).

When asked how they would improve their current work situation, the most cited requests included:

  • 28% of respondents want more day-to-day informal flexibility, and younger employees (26 – 41 years old) are most likely to want this flexibility (32%).
  • 20% would like the flexibility to telecommute, and younger employees (26 – 41 years old) are most likely to want this flexibility (25%).

Men mistakenly believe their rationale for wanting a career break is not as accepted as women’s, according to the news release. While men are almost as interested in taking a break as women (59% versus 70%), they are hesitant because they believe women are more likely to be granted a break from the workplace.

Some 75% of men said that employers are more likely to say “yes” to a woman requesting a leave of absence from work. In addition, 85% of men said that employers are more likely to say “yes” to a person with children requesting a leave of absence from work.

Though flexibility has come a long way in workforce recruitment strategies, official corporate flexibility strategy still has a way to go if workplaces are going to benefit from the talent of an expanded talent pool. Only 52% of hiring managers view flexibility as a strategy for managing workflow and talent management challenges.

While a majority of hiring managers said flexible hours (91%), telecommuting (79%), and project-based employment (53%) are valid workplace options, a smaller percentage of hiring managers actually offer these options. Flexible hours are offered by 80% of companies, while telecommuting is offered by 55% and project-based employment is offered by 36%.

The targeted sample for the individual survey included male and female professionals ages 26 – 41 (Generation X) and ages 42 – 60 (Baby Boomers) whose minimum education consists of a four-year college degree. An online survey was sent to individuals using qualified lists and through the use of Web-based recruitment. A total of 495 professionals completed the survey.

The targeted sample for the corporate survey consisted of manager-, director-, or VP-level executives with responsibility for the hiring and/or management of employees, including the recruitment and retention of employees. An online survey was sent to manager-, director-, or VP-level executives using qualified lists. Executives from a total of 190 separate firms completed the survey.

«