This blog is authored by Mike Watson, Director Flexion Consulting Pty Ltd and Flexible Working Day Ambassador. He wrote it in response to the article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 4 June 2017 'Why I don't believe men when they say they want flexibility at work'.
Taking time away from work to look after a sick child or to be home for the initial weeks of settling in a newborn is parenting, not flexibility at work. I can accept that some men have been slower than others to recognise the opportunity presented to them by parenting in this way. However, it is unreasonable to cover all men, and particularly younger generations of fathers, as delinquent in this area based on limited exposure to those who speak from bravado rather than truth. My own story reflects a father of three girls who, 35 years ago, carried at least a 50% load of parenting responsibilities as we both had growing careers. Flexible working opportunities were extremely limited while each of us was an employee. However, when I eventually acquired my own company, I managed to build flexibility into my ‘Whole-life Balance’ (where work and life don’t compete, but complement each other) so that I could be involved in my girls’ lives 7 days a week, and run a business.
Sure, that requires a cultural change and a different set of beliefs about a father’s role in parenting. But it is the belief about parenting that drives the desire for flexibility, not the availability of flexibility on its own. Fast forward to today and I see significant change in the beliefs of men in relation to their parenting responsibilities. Together with mothers who desire whole-life balance, parents and even grandparents, are driving for flexible working arrangements that focus on the outputs that men and women produce, rather than being limited by work practices that measure inputs as a guide to effectiveness. I see workplaces that embrace parents bring children into their environments if the needs require it – and colleagues accepting that we each are capable of taking responsibility for our careers and our families.
More needs to be done now to recognise these changing beliefs about parenting and to embrace the opportunities that truly flexible working arrangements can provide for the employees and employers. That is why I am an Ambassador for Flexible Working Day on 21 June 2017. Flexible working will become ‘business as usual’ for organisations, and for workers whether employees, self-employed or contractors in the gig-economy.