Flexibility in the Workplace

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Did you realise that in some cases, flexibility is legislated by the ‘The Australian National Employment Standard’ (Fair Work Act 2009 ‘NES’).

There have been countless articles in regards to 4-day work weeks, flexibility and remote work environments.  The concept is not new, combinations of these work solutions are already in place and adopted by a variety of businesses.  The tides are changing.  Slowly.

I think it’s clear now that these arrangements have a positive effect.  They create more inclusive and diverse workplaces, better morale, higher engagement, longer-term employee satisfaction and access to a key group of worked – individuals staying home during child rearing years.

The 2017 census results concluded that an ‘estimated 246,700 (42%) women had started or returned to work since the birth of their youngest child.’  That is a staggeringly low percentage of women returning to work following childbirth and note this is after the birth of their youngest child.  If families have 3 children, it’s unlikely that they will be able to return to work for a minimum of 6 years and at this point, many will require part-time employment for several years.  Six years out of the workforce makes for a very difficult return to the corporate world.  Increasingly, as many fathers opt to remain at home with children they will inevitably come up against the same issues, albeit not to the extent of women simply due to the remaining unconscious bias’s that still exist. 

It’s no secret that many organisations are now under requirements to include women in leadership positions.  This can be difficult for organisations with fewer women available to climb the corporate ladder once they have become mothers.  Imagine if the pool of women was greater, that women hadn’t left the workforce but continued their journey, acquiring more experience.  A simple change in flexible arrangements and the pool would be fabulously rich and diverse; quotas would soon be a thing of the past.

As families become more reliant on double incomes to support their lifestyles, the cost of child-care is becoming prohibitive however necessary for workers who need to stay in the workforce to keep their employment eligibility.  Let’s not forget that this inevitably leads to less disposable income, affecting the economy; the livelihood of brick and mortar business’s, the hospitality industry, the list goes on.

How can we work to remedy this? 

Flexibility is a great solution

I have first-hand experience – flexibility has allowed me to build a top rated Bookkeeping business in Perth.  I write this article from my home desk, with a cat and a dog sleeping soundly next to me.  I get to pick up the kids from school and I can keep going while they argue in the background, or at a more convenient time.  My bookkeeping business keeps five people in employment and each of us has the option to work flexibly.  We come together for a weekly catch up or more, when necessary.  This is our ‘normal’ and it works.

Not every workplace will be able to adapt to this working arrangement however it is imperative that those who can, unreservedly adapt and make flexibility available to all employees.

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