Men Get Flexible! Mainstreaming Flexible Work in Australian Business
Diversity Council Australia’s research project Men Get Flexible! Mainstreaming Flexible Work in Australian Business, released in 2012 built on their earlier research projects Get Flexible! (2012) and Working for the Future (2010).
The report stated that research shows that:
• A significant number of men desire greater access to flexible work than they currently experience and this is especially the case for young fathers.
• More men are interested in flextime, compressed work-weeks and working from home than in part-time work.
• More men tend to ‘tinker’ with flexible work (i.e. rely more on informal flextime and ad hoc working from home structured around full-time work). Very few currently work part-time (and very few desire this as an option), and very few take extended leave at the time of a child’s birth or adoption.
The report’s framework for action encourages organisations to take action in the following seven key areas:
1. Flexibility reframed: 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.
2. Diversity amongst men: Structure work in multiple ways to respond to the diversity amongst men in terms of age, cultural background, life-stage, nature of work, sexual orientation, work-life priorities and so on.
3. Culture: Foster an organisational culture that is supportive of flexible work for men, pro-actively encouraging men to engage in flexible work and providing opportunities for men to share their experiences of flexible work.
4. Leadership: Develop and publicise senior male role models of flexible work to break the perception that senior roles = no flexibility.
5. New model of success: Address men’s reluctance to use flexible work for fear of career penalties by designing new roles with flexibility as standard, integrating flexibility into senior roles and illustrating ‘success stories’.
6. Team-focus: Recognise that success in integrating flexible work hinges on the relationship between individuals and their teams, and build flexibility into standard team-based operating procedures.
7. Fatherhood: Utilise fatherhood as an effective entry to integrate flexibility and reduce gender differences in accessing flexible work, and focus on a long-term approach beyond parental leave.
The Report made the following recommendations for organisations:
1. Articulate a business case for engaging men around flexibility in your organisation.
2. Get clear on what it would look and feel like if men in your organisation were engaged in flexible work and flexible careers.
3. Use the seven components of the ‘Men Get Flexible’ framework to engage men in the
mainstreaming flexibility journey.
4. Take a first step by engaging senior leadership teams in an enquiry process similar to that used in this project.
• Why flexibility for men? What is our business case for a focus on men and flexibility?
• What is the current situation? Do men value flexible work in our organisation? To what extent do they utilise it and in what forms? What is the diversity amongst men in terms of valuing and utilising flexible work?
• What needs to change? How can we increase men’s engagement in flexible work and thus move flexible work from the margins to the mainstream?
5. Consider men’s experiences of both accessing flexible work and careers AND leading
organisational approaches to mainstreaming flexible work. While many men may be interested in accessing flexible work, not all will necessarily be in a leadership position that enables them to lead the ‘flexibility charge.’
6. Develop a set of process and outcome indicators for, and measures, of men’s effective
engagement in flexible work and flexible careers.
7. Focus on men and flexibility as part of your organisation’s strategy to mainstream flexibility, but be cautious about treating this as the silver bullet for delivering on your flexibility, diversity and gender equality objectives.
8. Take a bigger picture approach to the issue of men and flexibility, and consider the contribution men and fathers make to individual, family and social well-being. There is an abundance of research demonstrating the positive impact engaged fathering has on men themselves, women and children, and organisations can play a key role (in addition to government, community and families themselves) in facilitating this through making flexible work and careers standard business practice.
9. Recognise that gender equality at work depends in part on gender equality at home. Consider how your organisation’s communication strategies around flexibility can validate men increasing their overall engagement in caregiving and household work. Facilitating the more equitable and less gendered division of labour at home can have positive flow on consequences for your organisation, as women are freed up to increase their participation in and engagement with the workplace.
Read the full Report