Diversity Council report recommends business introduce flexible working practices for men

A new report has advocated businesses establish flexible working practices for men, suggesting male workers who have to care for children or relatives outside work hours will be less stressed and more productive if they have access to a flexible timetable.

The Diversity Council report, which was created in conjunction with Westpac, Origin Energy and Stockland, suggests 64% of fathers have a partner in the paid workforce, and that 31% have elder care responsibilities.

“There is considerable diversity amongst men and many now do not conform to the ideal ‘full-time’ worker model and have different priorities and aspirations (e.g. to be active fathers),” it says.

Women in Global Business program manager Cynthia Balogh welcomed the report, saying flexibility in the workplace overall is a “critical issue”.

“We’re trying to encourage men to take a significant part in the raising of their children, or looking after aged parents. Just as we are encouraging flexibility for women, it’s important for all family members.”

The report states workplace flexibility is a key factor in employment decisions, with 18% saying they had seriously considered leaving an organisation because of a lack of flexibility. This grew to 37% and 29% when among young fathers and men under 35 years of age without caring responsibilities.

The benefits, it argues, are clear. Work performance reduces work to family conflict, and has a bigger impact on satisfaction ratings for both work and home.

The report also suggests men with more flexible employment options handle stress better in the workplace.

“Fathers who work flexibly, compared to those who don’t, have a better work-life balance and are able to deal with work overload more effectively.”

It references a Harvard University study which found men who shared a “high commitment” to work, but set rules about not working on weekends and spending time with family were actually the highest performing employees.

The report also argues a “significant number” of men want more flexibility:

  • 79% of young fathers want to choose their start and finish times, and would also like to work a compressed work week.
  • 56% of young fathers would prefer to work some regular hours at home, while only 13% actually do.
  • Men’s preferred forms of flexible work include more opportunities to choose start and finish times, at 64%, while 56% want a compressed work week and 34% want to work regular hours at home.

As a result, the report recommends using fatherhood as an effective entry “to integrate flexibility and reduce gender differences in accessing flexible work, and focus on a long-term approach”.

This includes offering flexibility in time worked and where people can work, as well as giving employees a choice in both of those options.

It also recommends reducing time worked in some cases and allowing for unplanned leave as well.

Balogh says businesses should encourage more flexibility, given the release of the report.

“There are businesses offering quite comprehensive programs for paternity leave for men and flexible work practices. It can increase job effectiveness and work performance.”

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