I would love to be able to spend more time with my kids, but it wouldn’t even cross my mind to ask for flexible working arrangements. I guess I’ve never really thought that there were other options for me in my role.
Financial advisor and father of two
Flexible working is the way of the future. Thanks to advances in technology the need to work at a certain time, from a certain place and on certain days, will soon become a thing of the past. But what is flexible working? And who can work flexibly?
In a very general sense, flexible working means not working the standard 9 – 5 Monday to Friday work week. However, as the name suggests, there are lots of different types of flexible working arrangements including: compressed working weeks, part-time work, job sharing, time-in-lieu or telecommuting.
Importantly, flexible working is not always about ‘cutting back’. This is a really dangerous misconception and has created significant stigma around the topic.
In some instances, flexible working might mean a reduction in hours (for example, working part-time), however other options focus on incorporating more flexibility into an existing FTE role. For example, an employee might negotiate working longer days for four days a week to have the fifth day off with their family. Another example would be to negotiate leaving at 3pm to pick up the kids from school, to then spend a few hours working later that evening once the kids are in bed.
The key to understanding flexibility is that it focuses on output rather than hours spent at work. In doing so, employees can expect a better work-life balance and employers can expect greater employee efficiency, engagement and satisfaction. Arrangements like these and the employee-employer relationships that these develop lead to becoming an employer of choice in your industry, a critical objective for those companies looking to compete strongly and attract/retain the best talent.
Flexible working has traditionally been associated with women who juggle caring responsibilities and work. However, it is not just women - or parents for that matter - who want more flexibility in their roles.
Recent research shows that the youngest and brightest new graduates are seeking employers who offer flexibility, so that they can pursue interests outside of work like sport, study or caring for others.
As a result, a number of major Australian businesses, including Westpac and Telstra, are implementing ‘flexible working for all' policies to attract and retain the best talent. With more dual-income families in Australia than ever before; the shift toward a more flexible workplace culture will also benefit the many fathers who would like to change the way they work to be able to spend more time with their families.
If flexible working is something you are interested in, have a look at your company’s policies to see what options are available to you, or chat with your manager. Have a clear purpose in mind that outlines why you would like to negotiate more flexible working hours and remember, there are many different ways you can work flexibly. Your manager might even be able to point some out that you hadn't previously thought of. See what works for both you and your manager to create win-win scenarios for everybody.
Are you a flexible-working father, or would you like to be?
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Workplace Gender Equality Agency. Employee Flexibility Toolkit: Australian Government; Available from: www.wgea.gov.au.