Diversity Council Australia in partnership with Westpac and supporting sponsors has released a major new research project in support of flexible working at an event in Sydney.
Flexible working represents an important productivity lever. It helps people work smarter and thus optimises resources and productivity in a global operating environment still recovering from a GFC. However, flexible work is not seen as a valid and legitimate management tool or career choice in Australian workplaces. In short, quality flexible work is simply not standard business practice.
Also supported by Stockland, Origin and Allens Arthur Robinson, this leading edge research will provide valuable information on practical steps organisations can take to move beyond just 'talk' to implementing real cultural change on flexibility.
Nareen Young, DCA's CEO said it's time flexible roles are the norm instead of the exception in workplaces:
"The lack of quality part-time work, especially in management positions, contributes to considerable underutilisation of women's skills and capabilities in the workforce. But it's not just about mothers with children. Lots of other people want and need flexibility - from fathers who want to be just as involved in the hands-on caring for their children as mothers, to those people who have elderly parents who need care, or those who want to ease back on work as they prepare for retirement.
"Clearly it's time to take a good look at the way we work and the way we think about flexibility to ensure flexible working is seen as a legitimate career choice," said Nareen.
DCA's study combines academic and industry-based research with the views and experiences of a range of people who have been immersed in flexible work in Australia including: academic researchers; business leaders; union leaders; those who either work flexibly, or manage or work with those who do. The findings will explore:
The value of mainstreaming flexibility to drive business improvement;
What real workplace flexibility looks like and why we aren't there yet;
What needs to change to enable flexible 'career-pathing'; and
How it is possible to achieve a balance between employer and employee needs for flexibility to achieve significant positive outcomes for both.
Question: Can you talk about how you are working in a flexible way?
Deanna Chan: Anna and I are both lawyers and we work in a job share arrangement which essentially involves us working three days a week with a one day crossover.
Question: What industry are you in and how many days a week do you work?
Ana Simurina: We each work three days, I work Monday - Wednesday and Deanna does Wednesday - Friday. Wednesday is our crossover day, which is a hectic day where we have a lot of meetings and catch up with clients and each other.
We are actually lawyers but the nature of our job is transactional, we work on deals with our internal business clients and deals are always in process which is why it is important that we provide a seamless legal service to our clients.
Question: How do you manage communication in regards to job sharing?
Deanna Chan: Communication is probably one of the keys to a good job share arrangement. We make sure that we constantly communicate with one another and it is practical that all our correspondence is addressed to both of us and our email signatures and voicemail messages note our working days and make reference to one another.
Ana Simurina: We have been working like this for over five years and it has worked really well for us.
Question: What inspired you to begin working in a flexible way?
Deanna Chan: We both worked with each other in a full time basis as a team before we had our families and when we had our families we were both looking for a more flexible way of working. Together with our manager we redesigned the role and it has allowed us to have our careers whilst still having a work/life balance.
Question: What is the best thing about working in a flexible way?
Ana Simurina: For us it was critical that we had career flexibility, we don't want to compromise the quality of the work or the career progression so we own our role and we don't see ourselves as two individual part-timers that have been put together we see ourselves as a partnership and own the role. We are able to provide a seamless legal service that we like to think is even better than a full-timer would.
Deanna Chan: We have two heads to nut out problems and different experiences to bring to the table which is why there is always a fresh pair of eyes looking at the work, we do.
Question: Would you encourage this flexible way of working for other employers and employees?
Ana Simurina: I think the flexible way of working is great for both employers and employees. As we receive flexibility we return the flexibility back to our employer, Stockland, with the fact that we are interchangeable and our skills complement each other. When one of us is on leave or work flow is high or if we have a deal closing on a certain day we will swap our designated days or put in extra hours to return the flexibility back to the organisation. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Interview by Brooke Hunter