This book set out to explore flexible working in a more critical way, asking the question whether flexible working actually provides positive outcomes for workers in terms of work-life balance, workers’ well-being and gender equality as many expect it to. The results of the previous chapters show that paradoxically rather than improving workers’ work-life balance, flexible working increased feelings of conflict between work and family. The reason behind this phenomenon was explained through the flexibility paradox, that flexible working can lead to further exploitation of workers’ labour. This exploitation pattern is gendered. Men expanded their employment hours, namely overtime hours, to fulfil their ideal worker and breadwinner masculine image. Women expanded their unpaid working hours, namely increased time spent on housework and childcare adhering to the social norms around their roles as caregivers. What is more, due to these gendered patterns of flexible working or more so the assumptions behind such patterns, women end up being penalised further when working flexibly despite the fact that they are also likely to work longer and harder on their paid work when working flexibly.
However, I have also shown that the take-up and outcomes of flexible working largely depends on the contexts in which it is used. The way we think about work, work-life balance, and gender roles, workers’ bargaining power and insecurity all help shape the outcomes of flexible working. The book also showed that as flexible working becomes more widely used, we see a shift in the attitudes towards flexible working – namely through the decline in flexibility stigma.
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