Peter and I have been connected for many years, but seeing his recent advocacy in flexible working has awoken my own passion. Having a newborn but still having a drive to get work done means that flexible working is non-negotiable in my future. Thank you Peter for being such an advocate and promoter. Enjoy the read, I had quite the chuckle!
Since learning that the term “flexism” is essentially discrimination against employees who seek to work flexibility, tackling this issue via personal advocacy and behaviour change has been a passion of mine. Since welcoming our third daughter in July 2018, it became even more important for me to integrate family and work life together and support others to do the same.
My wife has worked in formal flexible arrangements for approximately six years now, as long as we’ve had children. However, it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve personally adopted informal flexible work arrangements, combined with taking April-June 2019 as full-time paternity leave to support my wife’s transition back to work. We are both extremely fortunate and grateful to have employers that understand flexibility is a competitive advantage – which means taking it beyond conversations and words on a policy document, to genuinely supporting employees to be the highest version of themselves. I strongly believe that my organisation is a market leader in diversity and inclusion strategies, but it is still up to myself and other leaders to champion change and lead by example.
For me personally, the benefits of the last three months on paternity leave have been enormous. I have bonded more with my three girls than I could have ever imagined, whether it’s walking the tribe to school, or building cubby houses during storms so there’s a safe place to watch ABC kids. Funnily enough, I have also enjoyed all the “life admin” that goes with being the stay-at-home dad – washing, ironing, cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking – the list goes on and on and on. Many people have asked if this was a difficult transition, but overall I found it simpler to think of it in terms of making choices that were closely aligned with my values and sense of purpose. This mainly centres around being a father that my daughters admire and look up to, as well as supporting my wife in her career and transition back to work.
The evidence also it also makes good business sense to support flexible working arrangements, because being on the wrong side of psycho-social risk management can incur significant human and financial costs. I like to think of the benefits of flexibility in terms of the job demands-resources model – reducing occupational stress and simultaneously increasing job satisfaction and organisational commitment. For example, if implemented well (and with procedural justice), encouraging employees to adopt either informal, formal, or a combination of flexible work arrangements can improve aspects of job control and work design, as well as reduce potential stressors such as role conflict. By doing this, organisations may decrease the likelihood of employee behaviours including absenteeism, turnover, and reduced job performance. Just to name a few.
Being the primary caregiver has also opened my eyes though that more needs to be done with regards to men taking leave, particularly paternity or longer periods of leave. In fact, a recent article in The Guardian cited that just one in 20 fathers in Australia take primary parental leave (low in comparison to global standards), and that the birth of a child has little impact on fathers’ employment. The article eloquently stated that the parental leave divide is further “reinforced by entrenched social views of the breadwinner and homemaker gender ideals”, as well as stigmas and biases attached to men taking extended leave. And I’ve now witnessed this first hand. “Career limiting move” and “how do you find being a Mum?” have been said to me more than once by colleagues and friends. But at least it provides me with the platform to challenge the discourse that is perpetuated by such comments, while I casually readjust the Baby Bjorn and sip on my cappuccino. 😊
As a final selfish promotion, I’m proud to say that I was a 2019 ambassador for Flexible Work Day. Please…if you haven’t heard of this great global initiative, I’d challenge you to get involved and share your story. With the future of work now here, people need to understand that they have more to offer than just being available. Instead, we should focus on creating value and making a positive impact.