Men and Flexibility – Part 1
Men are often forgotten in the flexibility and family friendly work conversation. This is unfortunate for both men and women, as well as organisations, the economy and the wider community. There are many missed opportunities and benefits but what about starting with just one? Plain old, ‘the right to equality’. As female participation in the workforce has increased over the years so has male home caring responsibilities which begs the question why aren’t we talking about this more? And why are so many men wanting (yet, not utilising) flexible work arrangements?
To keep gender equity rolling in the right direction it’s only fair we include men in the bigger picture. In the next two Parents@Work blogs we highlight some key findings delivered by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in its paper Engaging men in flexible working arrangements. This week we look at why it’s a good idea that employers and women help men access it. Then next week we’ll explain how organisations can break down barriers and improve accessibility to flexible arrangements for male employees specifically.
But first, a few fast facts:
- Men (17.3%) are less likely to ask for flexible work arrangements than women (24.2%).
- Men are more likely to utilize “informal” flexibility e.g. flexible start and end times (Women are more likely to utilise “formal” flexibility e.g. part-time work, parental leave).
- Men (17.4%) are more likely than women (9.8%) to have their request for flexibility declined.
- Management and leadership roles are still dominated by men yet there are fewer opportunities higher up the chain for flexible work arrangements.
- 63% of fathers with children that are living at home have a partner in the workforce.
- Lack of flexibility was reported by 18% of men as a prime reason they had seriously considered leaving their employer.
In place of the traditional ideal worker/breadwinner role, men’s identities, priorities and aspirations in relation to work and family/personal life have diversified. In tandem with this, men’s (and particularly fathers’) needs have also changed, but employers have not kept up with these changes, and as a consequence have been unresponsive to men’s and fathers’ needs.
Why should organisations and women help men access their right to flexibility?
Men want it.
Research shows that flexibility is in the top five priorities for men of all ages and roles when choosing a job. Diversity Council Australia research found this to be particularly true for young fathers of which 79% want to choose their start and finish times, 79% want to work less hours per week and 56% wanting to work part of their week from home.
Men are more than ever actively involved in caring responsibilities, which boosts the economy via increased female work participation.
Women can return to work sooner, have access to more opportunities and more room to move when planning their flexible work arrangements. For employers this means a broader talent pool to choose from and an increase in productivity. “If we could [lift] women’s participation just 6%, we would add around $25 billion annually to Australia’s GDP. This has got significant productivity benefits for Australia.” Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told ABC News.
The challenge facing employers is “to increase flexible work arrangements that do not condemn employees to low quality jobs and leave women on the ‘mommy track’ of jobs that lack quality and career opportunities”.
Men deserve work life balance too.
The Diversity Council Australia research also found that men who don’t access flexibility found it more difficult to manage the demands of life and work. It found the “negative outcomes of this include decreased job satisfaction, increased turnover intentions and declining job engagement.”
Men who work flexibly are more productive.
When we feel our family priorities are supported we are more likely to bring a sense of gratitude and purpose to the workplace and therefore be more productive employees.
“A study of 60 men employed in a prestigious consulting firm identified that men who shared a high commitment to work but bounded their availability to work (e.g., by being home at night to have family meals, not working on weekends etc.), were in fact the highest performers based on independently obtained performance evaluation data.” WGEA
A father’s active engagement in parenting improves wellbeing – for themselves and their partner.
Research shows that active parenting “provides fathers with opportunities to develop and understand themselves differently”, can reduce conflict in the home and improve their psychological and general health along the way. Flexibility is a key contributor to enabling a more active parenting role.
 Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Engaging Men in Flexible Working Arrangements, viewed 11.8.2014, https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/20130829_PP_engaging_men_flex_work_2.pdf
 Questia Online Research, Responsiveness in Father-Child Relationships: The Experience of Fathers, viewed 11.8.14 http://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-252944236/responsiveness-in-father-child-relationships-the