Flexibility at Work – The number 1 thing parents and carers say would help manage work and family

This week our partners Parents at Work facilitated the industry launch of Australia’s 2019 National Working Families Report with workplace flexibility highlighted as key to supporting working parents to be the best they can be at work and at home.

From their research Parents at Work have documented the following findings and issues, outlining ways employers can best approach flexibility in the workplace.

Access to Flexible Work – the real story

  • Two-thirds of parents (64 per cent) report that it is more acceptable for women to use family-friendly work options than for men.
  • Men faced more barriers accessing flexible work, citing the reason for this being the potential negative impact it might have on their career and reputation, how they might be perceived by colleagues/manager and/or whether they could afford it.
  • Nearly half (46%) of all parents in the study said that a workers’ commitment to their job was questioned if they used family-friendly work arrangements

What they actually said

“[I’m] scared to ask [for flexibility] … [there are] inconsistencies in individual managers’ level of flexibility.”

“I had a flexible work arrangement in place until a colleague complained which led to the arrangement being altered to suit the colleagues needs.”

“Didn’t make a formal request but raised it with manager. He strongly discouraged me from making formal request.”

“I need to be seen to be at work; people who work from home are the first to face redundancies.”

“Caring for sick kids while managing work is difficult. While flexible work is approved, it’s the messaging at the workplace around – “managing sick kids while working from home is not possible, so please take sick leave”; “bringing kids to work during school holidays means no one gets any work done”, is very discouraging.”

The key issues

  • Managers / employers are ill-equipped or not aware of the various options and business benefits (i.e. greater productivity) when employees are able to work flexibly.
  • Bias and discrimination against parents and carers is still very high. Fear of asking for flexible work arrangements is common – mostly from fear of it having repercussions on their career or how they are perceived as a worker.
  • Men as carers is still not taken seriously and women are still pigeon-holed as the primary carer.

What can employers do to embed flexibility in the workplace?

1. Identify and invest in flexible work practices that will support your business and people – Consider the vast array of flexible working options available that can be accommodated and implemented in your workplace – trial these to see what works best for your business and people. The most common type of flexible work approach parents and carers want is flexibility around the standard hours of work and where they work.

2. Culture is key – Cultivate a healthy work-life culture that reflect the values and policies of your organisation. Walk the talk at all levels of the organisation – it’s counter-productive to have a flexible work policy but not embed it in reality. Challenge the stigmas and myths around flexible working.

3. Train managers on the importance embedding flexible work. Often it is individual line managers that present the biggest barriers for employees accessing flexible work.

4. Learn from other organisations doing it well. Seek out employers who have mainstreamed flexibility well and learn from what they’ve done that’s worked to make flexible working a mutually beneficial arrangement.

You can find the link to the original article along with a case study here.

Photo by The Honest Company on Unsplash