Creating an engaged workforce

As we look to turn the page on pandemic lockdowns, the REwork APAC summit brought together experts from Australia and Asia to explore the new frontier of the future of work, specificially on how employees and organisations will adapt their ways of working, the use of office space, how teams can adapt to hybrid working (which is clearly here to stay).

“The future of work will be more flexible, family inclusive and will focus on work life wellbeing”

In the maintaining the ties that bind – Building an Engaged & Motivated for Remote & Hybrid Teams, here’s what I shared….

Q. How has COVID-19 impacted the current state of work in Australia for families and how has this impacted gender equality?

Globally Covid has had a significant impact on work conditions for families and this has had a negative knock on effect on GE, and Australia isn’t immune.

In fact, Covid has exposed the once somewhat hidden work life conflict issues families face behind closed doors. Extended lockdowns, work from home conditions mixed with home care/schooling and family relationship conflict has provided the perfect storm.

We know both here and internationally more women than men have been disproportionately impacted when it comes to managing the caring / home schooling load.

Women continue to bear the caring burden in every country. Before the crisis started, women did nearly three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. And access to child care education continues to be barrier.

In February 2021, the Australia Bureau of Statistics reported close to 140,000 Australians wanted paid employment but didn't look for it because they couldn't find suitable child care? Over 90 per cent of them were women. (1)

Another 64,700 people wanted to work, but didn't look for it, because of family considerations or caring responsibilities. (1)

More women have stepped out of the workforce or reduced their working hours as a result of Covid.

This has a ripple effect on career progression, financial security and longer term health outcomes – not just for women but, as research now tells us, the future health and development of their children. Our next generation.

And if you think this issue doesn’t really impact you or your organisation, because you’re not a woman or a parent, think again.

Regardless of gender, regardless of whether we are parents or not, every one of us belongs to a family, however we define family, we all experience work life conflict of some sort during our working lifetime. Thus, it’s in every one of our interests to solve for how we integrate work and caring responsibilities.


Q. Where are we falling short in business? What are the major challenges organisations face when it comes to employee benefits and workplace policy and culture?

As the situation stands, you must be ‘lucky’ to be employed with an organisation who offers good work and family policy benefits. The divide between those employees that have access to family friendly policies only widens year on year.

Family policies have generally been undervalued and underdeveloped in organisations.

Policies are often developed in isolation, communicated poorly and can be exclusive rather than inclusive in their application i.e. an employer PPL scheme might have lots of caveats around it and only be offered to women not men.

Traditionally, family life has often been solely seen as an individual’s problem to solve for, e.g. dealing with child care issue, or family and domestic violence problems have been left with individuals to tackle without any support or involvement from their workplace. Yet with work and life now so interlinked and work encroaching on family time employers can ill afford to turn a blind eye.

Increasingly employees are looking to work for an organisation that will deliver on their work, family and wellbeing needs. They want to work for employers that have empathy for their home life demands and are willing to share the challenges with them. In return employees will be more productive, engaged and loyal.

Q. What does the future of work look like from a Family Friendly Workplaces perspective?

I think the reality has been that work jumped the fence into our homes and we’re expected to accept and adjust to that, and in some ways there’s been some great silver linings for employees in the flexibility to work from home. However, it hasn’t been a two way switch. We haven’t in return, as workplaces, willingly accepted and metaphorically invited family into our workplaces and that fundamentally has to change.

We need to ensure we offer places of work that allow for family needs to be met.

That means we have to develop family friendly workplace policies and practices that enable people to reduce their work-life conflict and we need to embed this into job design principles to make it a reality.

It means workplace overtly make a proactive effort to be family inclusive in how they operate their business. Much like businesses now make decisions on impact on their carbon footprint to take climate change, we must do the same and consider family impact on employment decisions.

Q. What are the National Work + Family Standards and how do they support organisations and their employees to mitigate the accelerated and unprecedented change?

In Australia we have introduced National Work + Family Standards for employers. These standards help employers consider what it means to be ‘family inclusive’ and benchmark their current policies and practices against these benchmarks.

This is important because without a benchmark, it’s hard for employers to know what to aim for, what does good look like?

More open, transparent conversations that cut through to a win-win working relationship for both employer and employee. This is possible when all concerns are aired and a unified response to what is needed to ensure an employee can be as productive and engaged as both them and their employer want them to be.


By Emma Walsh, CEO Parents At Work, Founder, Family Friendly Workplaces.


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(1) Meet the millions of people who aren't employed, who aren't considered 'unemployed' - Sited 14/11/21