A lack of workplace flexibility could prompt more men to start their own business, after a report revealed 18% of men have considered leaving their job because of inflexible arrangements.
The report, titled Men Get Flexible! Mainstreaming Flexible Work in Australian Business, was produced by Diversity Council Australia in partnership with Westpac.
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While much has been made of the need for flexible working arrangements for women, particularly mothers, the effect of inflexible workplaces on men has been largely overlooked.
The report, which draws on academic and industry studies on men and flexibility, shows more men are feeling the pressure in terms of balancing their work and family/personal commitments.
Having the flexibility to manage their family/personal life was in the top five job characteristics for all men, while for younger fathers it was the third most highly valued job characteristic.
The report shows 18% of men have seriously considered leaving their organisation because of a lack of flexibility. For young fathers, that figure increased to 37%.
While 79% of young fathers would prefer to choose their start and finish times, only 41% actually do, according to the report.
Similarly, 79% of young fathers prefer to work a compressed work week, but only 24% do.
Nareen Young, chief executive of Diversity Council Australia, says more men (64%) are now part of dual-earner families, which means they are expected to be more involved in parenting.
In addition to parenting responsibilities, 31% of men have elder care responsibilities.
As a result, more men are interested in “flextime” – which refers to compressed work weeks and working from home – which could be a motivating factor for men starting their own business.
Preferred forms of flexible work include increased opportunities to choose their start and finish times (64%), working a compressed week (56%), and working some hours at home (34%).
With regard to employers, Young says flexible working arrangements should be standard practice, “rather than merely the domain of mothers with young children”.
“Organisations need to foster an organisational culture that is more supportive of flexible work for men – one that proactively encourages men to engage in flexible work,” Young says.
“It is especially important for men to be engaged in leading organisational change on mainstreaming flexibility because leadership roles are disproportionately held by men.”
“While this isn’t the silver bullet for delivering on diversity, flexibility and gender equality objectives, it will be very helpful in changing attitudes to flexible working.”
DCA’s tips on engaging men in flexible working:
- Emphasise the business case for men to engage in flexible work and broaden the definition of flexibility to include full-time work self-managed flexibly, and formal, informal and dynamic flexible work.
- Structure work in multiple ways to respond to the diversity amongst men in terms of age, nature of work, work-life priorities, etc.
- Foster an organisational culture that is supportive of flexible work for men, proactively encouraging men to engage in flexible work and providing opportunities for men to share their experiences of flexible work.
- Utilise fatherhood as a way to integrate flexibility and reduce gender differences in accessing flexible work, and focus on a long-term approach beyond parental leave.