Gen X'ers want telework, study shows

What do Generation X professionals want? Flextime, telecommuting, compressed work weeks - policies and programs that make balancing their work and personal lives easier, according to a recent report by research firm Catalyst.

          What do Generation X professionals want? Flextime, telecommuting, compressed work weeks - policies and programs that make balancing their work and personal lives easier. And they expect their employers to provide them, according to a recent report by research firm Catalyst.

          For the study The Next Generation: Today's Professionals, Tomorrow's Leaders, Catalyst recently surveyed 1263 professionals born between 1964 and 1975, working in 10 firms in the United States and Canada.

          While Catalyst's mission is to advance women in business and its goal for the survey was to dispel Gen X myths and learn what these workers want most from an employer, the findings also offer valuable insight to firms weighing the value of telework and flextime.

          Of those surveyed, 71% were women, 29% men; 71% were married or living with a partner; 36% have children. The average household income was $US103,155, the average tenure with the company was five years. Seventy-eight percent were from the United States, 22% from Canada.

          The study found respondents place more importance on personal goals and values than on those related to work. They report difficulty in managing their work/life commitments, and want organisational support to manage their work/life commitments including flextime, ability to telecommute and access to technology. With the exception of casual dress code, respondents said their job satisfaction is not driven by perks such as conveniences services, gym memberships, reimbursements of meals and travel. And 47% said they'd be happy to spend the rest of their careers with their current organisations.

          Twenty-nine percent of respondents report that the interference of their jobs on their personal lives is "severe" or "very severe"; 43% describe this interference as "moderate." This suggests either companies aren't offering the policies and programmes needed to support personal and family goals or that such policies and programmes aren't working, Catalyst says.

          Although both men and women reported they want to use flexible work arrangements, the percentage of women was a bit higher:

          Flexible arrival and departure: 40% women, 32% men

          Ability to change schedule on ad hoc basis: 48% women, 41% men

          Telecommuting/work from home: 61% women, 54% men

          Reduced work schedule: 42% women, 22% men

          More interestingly, far more respondents would like to use flexible work arrangements than currently do, a finding firms intent on retaining good employees can't ignore:

          Flexible arrival and departure: 46% do; 37% want to

          Change schedule on an ad hoc basis: 22% do; 46% want to

          Telecommuting/work from home: 17% do; 59% want to

          Ability to change work location on ad hoc basis: 7% do; 37% want to

          Compressed work week: 6% do; 67% want to

          Reduced work schedule: 4% do; 36% want to

          Leaves and sabbaticals: 18% do; 43% want to

          Why do they want flextime? While a majority of respondents are looking to ease the childcare burden (79% women, 68% men), other reasons ranked high also. Nearly half of men surveyed (and 37% of women) said they'd use it to attend school. Other reasons cited related to personal health, personal interest unrelated to family and desire to address overwork.

          Respondents also see access to technology beyond the office as extremely important and strongly tied to the ability to telework. Fifty percent of women cited technology access as "extremely important" compared to 41% of men; 32% of women respondents ranked the ability to telework as very important, compared to 17% of men.

          When asked why respondents might consider leaving their firms, more than half (64%) said to seek a work environment more supportive of family and personal commitments; almost as many (63%) said to seek more control over their work schedules. Of those willing to leave, 45% said their perceived ability to balance work and personal life hadn't been met.

          Last, when looking at organisational initiatives relating to career development and advancement, 78% of respondents rated flexible work policies and programmes as extremely important or very important to their advancement and job satisfaction.

          Speaking of numbers, USA Today recently published some statistics from a survey of 402 senior business executives conducted by the ITRA Realty Group. When asked how they felt about this statement: "Full-time telecommuters do not advance as quickly on a career track as office-based counterparts," 45% strongly agreed, 27% strongly disagreed, 18% were neutral.

          First of all, 45% isn't that high a number, given the statement specifies full-time teleworkers only. Also, keep in mind, the study is conducted by a Realty Group who's business it is to keep workers in corporate offices. The biggest offender here is USA Today (yet again) for not considering the source of the research or its agenda, and for taking a cheap shot (why, who knows?) by titling the graphic: "Telecommuting Not Good for Career."

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