Finding a Job

Flex -It's time to rethink our attitude to work

Flexible work in the 21st Century is about shifting from an 'hours worked' culture to a results based work model. When Yahoo's Marissa Mayer banned home working, was she admitting she didn't know how to measure productivity?

Getting ahead in the dog eat dog corporate world is seldom conducive to friendly ego-free collaboration. Taking a more flexible approach to organizing work is the obvious solution to getting and keeping more parents in employment. While we may have come a long way from the 60’s and 70’s the US lags behind many European countries where parents have a right to request flexible work, and are protected from discrimination while making that request.

Flexible work arrangements can range from reduced work hours, full time work from home roles, to the ability to telecommute in case of an emergency. All of these require clear understanding of Results based output and productivity. This can get even more complex with a job share, where companies are employing two people for one job. The role is not split, just the hours. Both work half the time, both take on full responsibility for every aspect of the job – their team has two leaders, but only one on any given day.

Even in roles where flexible working should be easy, it is often difficult for the individual employee to get terms that work for them. Shift workers find that requests to avoid night shifts and weekends are refused. Managers can struggle with balancing the needs of people with young children with the needs of the rest of the workforce.

Parents do not have a right to flexible work, they only have a right to request it. In workplaces that are feeling the pressure of an unforgiving economy and cuts, leaders are demanding more from less – and flexibility is often a victim.

We must switch from an 'hours worked' culture to a results based model – it’s not about work life balance – think work and life are blended, rather than separate and balanced. Work fits in and around the children. An international client can require an email at 4am on a Sunday morning, and a daughter can need to be taken to a swimming lesson at 4pm on a Monday afternoon.

This is a very human approach to work, but achieving this blend requires autonomy and trust. The less control people have over their work, the less able they are to make it happen. It also shifts the emphasis from hours worked to what is achieved. Managers are forced to value what comes out, rather than what goes in.

When Yahoo's Marissa Mayer announced she was banning home working, she was admitting she didn't really know how to measure productivity, so she counts bums on seats instead. Mayer forced employees to make work their sole priority.

Empowering parents to design working arrangements that fit their family life is vital. At the moment it's every woman for herself when negotiating flexible work, but bringing these women together will strengthen their fight and help change the workplace for the better.

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GajGal is an expanding community of mothers helping mothers. Our motto “Get a Job | Get a Life” is based on the belief that for mothers wanting to get back into the workforce, finding a job with “the right level” of flexibility, empowers working mothers to live life on their own terms and better control their own destiny.
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