flexible work

Flexible work isn’t just a woman’s issue

What's happening with flexible work, who's doing it and why greater change is needed to support it.

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Greater job flexibility is sweeping the nation but still it remains largely a woman’s issue, suggesting that society, politicians and business have a lot more work to do.

The last two years have seen huge growth in the availability of flexible careers, part time work and options for mums returning to paid employment.

While there is a broader discussion on this being indicative of the state of the economy, with shifts towards a more casual workforce due to redundancies and downsizing, those seeking a less conventional approach to the working week are benefitting.

Searching for ‘part-time’ on Seek no longer throws a few meagre scraps at you.

There are a number of dedicated job-search sites for flexible work, such as Flexcareers, Diverse City Careers and JobsShared.

Widely accessible and easy to adopt advances in technology are making working remotely or from home feasible for a workforce once tied to their desks.

If job flexibility is classified as a women’s issue, it will remain just that.

CEOs and executive management, as well as politicians and industry heads, will pay it lip service as required, ultimately leaving it unresolved and under-utilised in any meaningful or thorough way.

But change is coming to flexibility not just in the numbers of people actively seeking to flex their work arrangements, but in the gender of those people.

Colleagues approach me regularly, usually under the cover of darkness wearing a Groucho Marx nose and moustache combo, to ask me about working part-time.

How do I like it? How do I get my work done? What do I do with my days ‘off’? (how we working mums laugh…). I’m used to handling these questions; what’s changed is that these people are now overwhelmingly men.

It is this shift that has allowed the flexibility at work discussion to gain momentum, to go mainstream; the fact that the conversation has tipped over into the hallowed ground of ‘men’s business’.

Many corporates such as PriceWaterhouseCoopersCommonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia New Zealand Banking Group to name but a few, have introduced flexibility in some form to their entire workforce, not just to working mothers; the aim being to have a draw card for high calibre staff; men and women.

The tipping point is near. The options to set your own hours and work location are appealing to men as much as women, why wouldn’t they be?

We all need a little more time with our families, juggling commitments, managing study and life’s hobbies.

Work-life balance is a huge selling point. It’s not just about the school run anymore.

We are all squeezing more and more into our lives so that the need for flexibility has moved into the realm of necessity; managers who don’t support the concept are seen as old fashioned and untrusting.

A workforce that feels untrusted, and worse, resentful of the limitations on their valuable time, cannot possibly operate to their maximum potential.

Once flexible arrangements are cemented into our workplace culture as applicable to everyone, and not just working mums; and viewed as mutually beneficial to staff and employer; true change will follow.

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