LabFam seminar series: Can We Change the Overwork Culture? The Role of Workplaces in Challenging Conventional Definitions of “Ideal Workers”
Speaker: Youngjoo Cha, Indiana University
This study examines whether organizational policies can help to challenge the way we define “ideal workers.” In American workplaces, there is a prevailing normative conception that ideal workers put work before other commitments, working long hours and making themselves available for work 24/7. This traditional way of defining ideal workers has shown to lead to negative consequences for employee’s health and family life. This paper examines whether flexible work policies (e.g., time-off, flextime, telecommuting) help to alter this “ideal worker” norm. We use the data from our own national survey of 4,013 employees, fielded by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago in 2018, using their AmeriSpeak panel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. Our analysis shows that flexible work policies alone do not weaken the ideal worker norm. However, if they are combined with certain conditions, such as gender-neutral framing of the policies, consistency in policy granting process, and easy accessibility to the policies, they may change the ideal worker norm. Employees in these organizations are less likely to define successful employees as someone with traditional ideal worker traits. Furthermore, these employees assess their fit to the successful employee image as well as organizational and job fit to be greater, less likely to express desire to leave their jobs, and more likely to report better wellbeing outcomes, compared to employees in organizations where flexible work policies are implemented in less supportive, more gendered, and more discretionary ways.
About the speaker: Youngjoo Cha is a
Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor,at Department of Sociology, Indiana University Bloomington.
Her research interests encompass gender, work and family, occupations, organizations, labor markets, social inequality, quantitative research methods.