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Episode Info

Episode Info:

Share this episode with a friend In this episode, I want to take a bit of a deeper look at one of the things that I think is really key for working families, and that is workplace flexibility. There are several fronts where flexible work can make working parents lives easier. On a day to day level it can help parents work around school or pre-school operating hours, or work at a time of day that fits in with family responsibilities and allows for better productivity, allows for out of the ordinary appointments or events to be taken care of without a major hassle and also just make the dual responsibilities of work and family co-exist more harmoniously. Stepping back and taking a broader view, it can help parents of school-aged children work around the many many weeks of school holidays, help parents to feel less overloaded with responsibilities and allow parents to take a more active role in things like their children's sports team or activities. More and more often I am seeing workplaces offer flexible work arrangements, and increasingly in job adverts, I am seeing flexibility listed as an attribute of the workplace and an option that will be available to the successful applicant. This is great to see and to very honest the more I see this the more chance I have of finding a job that I can give my best to! But what we don't want to fall into is the trap of seeing flexible work as doing less, working less or achieving less. Overwhelmingly when people talk about flexibility at work, it is their work being assessed as a 'number of hours at work', When we focus on that aspect, it encourages a correlation between the number of hours worked and how 'good' an employee is. The more hours worked the more valuable the employee. Just think of the scenario of the last one to leave the office being praised by management, and the person leaving in time to do the school pickup being seen as 'slacking off' or 'taking advantage'. This metric (which is known as presenteeism) means that when an employee arranges their days and weeks so they can get to school pick up or go to children's appointments or events, they are seen as achieving less, being less committed and therefore less valuable to the workplace. To look at it a different way, this metric means that employees who are seen as more valuable and are more likely to advance are going to be those that are not toeing the childcare line.....and statistically, we know that currently that is mostly men. But a different metric to assess value is how productive we are, what we are achieving in our work and how effective we are in the time we do work. Research is showing that employees (both men and women) that are at work fewer hours have a greater sense of balance in their lives and a greater ability to look after all their life responsibilities. As a result, they are more content, more productive at work and easier to retain in the workplace. Some suggest that in reality, people working 4 days get more done than those working 5 days, that fewer hours leads to higher efficiency and productivity within those hours as opposed to long passages of time that are easily wasted. We all need to challenge our perception of flexible work as 'working less' and think of it more as 'a better fit for the same work'. We need to view those working full-time hours but in a more flexible way as having the same value as those who work 9-5 in the office. Instead of part-time work being seen as a less productive 'cop out' option, it is time to get acquainted with the idea of the 'power part-timer' - a highly productive person who is sharply focused on their work and get's in, gets the job done and gets out - the model of ultimate efficiency. We also need to challenge our perception of flexible work being only for women who have young children. When fathers negotiate work flexibility in their career, everyone benefits, their partners, their children and of course themselves.

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