Breaking down barriers for men to access flexible work options

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Men and Flexibility, Part 2

Last week we presented the benefits for why we should include men in the conversation about improving access to flexible work arrangements. This week we look at how to actually go about doing it.

“Engaging men around flexibility is not necessarily about designing and implementing discrete programs or initiatives for men at work. While such initiatives certainly have a place, engaging men is about broadening the approach and integrating a focus on men and flexibility across existing initiatives and strategies relating to flexibility and cultural change, leadership commitment and capability development, high performing teams and career development.” WGEA

Here’s what the Workplace Gender Equality Agency recommends for helping men access flexible work arrangements:

1. Recognise the diversity amongst men

Organisations need to recognise diversity of men’s work, life-stage and lifestyle, cultural background, sexual orientation and so on. Understanding this diversity is critical to effectively respond to men’s workplace needs, as well as being able to engage them in the flexibility journey.

2. Build a focus on men and flexibility into your flexible work framework by…

  • Flexibility reframed: Emphasise the business case for men to engage in flexible work and broaden the definition of flexibility to include full-time work, self-managed flexibility, and formal and informal flexible work.
  • Culture: Foster an organisational culture that is supportive of flexible work for men. Effective strategies might be to pro-actively encourage men to engage in flexible work and to provide opportunities for men to share their experiences of flexible work. Flexible work and careers need to be promoted as legitimate and available to all employees.
  • Leadership: Develop and publicise senior male role models of flexible work to break the perception that senior roles equal no flexibility. Ask:
    • Why flexibility for men? What is our business case for a focus on men and flexibility?
    • What is the current situation? Do men value flexible work in our organisation?  To what extent do they utilise it and in what forms? What is the diversity amongst men in terms of valuing and utilising flexible work?
    • What needs to change? How can men’s engagement in flexible work be increased and thus move flexible work from the margins to the mainstream?
    • New model of success: Address men’s reluctance to use flexible work for fear of career penalties by designing new roles with flexibility as the standard, integrating flexibility into senior roles and illustrating ‘success stories’.
    • Team focus: Recognise that success in integrating flexible work hinges on the relationship between individuals and their teams, and build flexibility into standard team-based operating procedures.
    • Paternity leave: Review current policies and provide men with greater access to parental and paternity leave.
    • Fatherhood: Use fatherhood as an effective starting point to integrate flexibility and reduce gender differences in accessing flexible work. Focus on a long-term approach beyond parental leave. Take account of:
      • Fatherhood is relevant for a majority of men (80% of men will become fathers during their lifetime). Most men (and women) will have children in their early 30s when they are also in the key years of their experience of paid employment.
      • Access to flexible work is particularly critical for this demographic group for the achievement of gender equality in work and caring.
      • The transition to fatherhood presents a key opportunity for organisations to engage men in accessing flexible work.
      • Consider the contribution men and fathers make to individual, family and social well-being, and the indirect benefit this will have on business performance.
      • Recognise that gender equality at work depends in part on gender equality at home. Consider how your organisation’s communication strategies around flexibility can validate men increasing their overall engagement in caregiving and household work.

For the full Workplace Gender Equality Agency perspective paper see Engaging men in flexible working arrangements.

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