In July this year, Helen Whately MP introduced a bill in parliament to make flexible working the default rather than the exception. This was a huge step in raising awareness and hopefully marks a major shift in how Employers approach flexible working. In a recent study 98% of employers stated that their employees expect more flexible working hours and, despite only 36% of those Employers currently meeting that need, offering flexible working practices was high on their list of priorities so there’s hope that flexible working will soon become the new norm.
While offering flexibility helps to give Parents more time with their families surprisingly enough it has no positive impact on their mental well being. Working Parents are 40% more stressed than others in your workforce and this doesn’t improve when you begin offering flexible working. Also, those working flexibly still struggle to progress in their careers with part-time workers being 50% less likely to be promoted.
To maintain employee engagement, mental well being and increase gender diversity, Employers need to embrace flexible working, but they also need to go a step further. Working flexibly can be hard. Employers need to give flexible workers all the tools they need in order to thrive.
As an employer what can you do
Make requesting flexibility easy
Mother’s approaching the end of their maternity leave often say how nervous they are about discussing working part-time. They believe it will affect how they are viewed and options for progression. The onus is often on the employee to make the request and redesign their role to work with their new hours. By asking them to convince you, they automatically feel flexible working is not embraced. Why not take the initiative and ask the question – ‘would working flexibly be something you’d like to discuss?’, ‘how can we make returning to work easier for you?’
That said, this shouldn’t just be about making it easier for those returning from Maternity leave, we need to make sure that all existing and prospective employees feel comfortable making a request. Including statements on job descriptions and corporate intranets to highlight your corporate policies can make a difference.
Make part-time roles really part-time
Employers often ask the question; how can you make your position work part-time? This isn’t right. The role then doesn’t change, and the employee needs to get the same amount of work done, but in fewer hours. Instead, Employers should look at the job description and see whether some of the duties can be reduced or reallocated and help the individual to prioritise. Set achievable objectives and constantly think about whether it’s realistic. If someone is working half of a week then regular weekly meetings should shift to being fortnightly. Every hour spent by someone part-time can equate to two hours for a full-time employee so make sure to strip things away from their calendar.
Offer career coaching & support on how to work flexibly
There’s an art to working part-time, it’s often something that can take employees time to get used to and, during that transition it can take its toll both on employee engagement and their mental well being. By offering access to coaching and support, enabling them to think about how to structure their home and working week and giving them techniques to prioritise and get comfortable with pushing back you can make a huge difference.
If employers are going to improve their gender diversity, particularly at a senior level, giving flexible working employees access to career coaching will make a huge difference. Making career progression feel achievable is key.
Lead from the top
If Managers within your business aren’t working flexibly themselves then naturally your flexible workers will believe they can’t progress while working part-time. Employers need to be creating senior roles that can work on a flexible basis. Creating job shares at a senior level that demonstrate that this is something that you value.
By simply offering flexible working practices you’ll make a real step in increasing employee engagement but to have a positive impact on your employees mental well
being and gender diversity you’ll need to go a step further and, by offering genuine support and encouragement to those working flexibly you can make a real difference.
About Parent Cloud
Parent Cloud is reinventing how businesses engage with Parents at work by offering online remote consultations with specialists to include: antenatal/birth/postnatal coaching, breastfeeding advice, nutrition, infant sleep coaching, therapy sessions and career coaching.
We also offer in-house workshops to help those approach periods of extended leave and those returning to work. Our most recent workshop is ‘The Art of working Flexibly – giving your employees all the tools they need to thrive.’