There has long since been a debate about how the best way to get more women into the workforce is to have flexibility in the work arrangements. That debate has more or less been settled but perhaps it’s time to ask if what’s sauce for the goose shouldn’t be sauce for the gander too – if there is economic, productivity and employee wellness benefit to be had then why not for all employees, not just the women? It may be that we find out soon enough – in Australia Five men will take a six-month challenge to work flexibly or part time as part of a Workplace Gender Equality Agency initiative designed to show that flexibility benefits all workers, not just women.
The initiative, called the Equilibrium Man Challenge, tasks 5 quintessential career men currently struggling with work/life balance to make a change. They will try either reducing work hours, or changing their hours to be more flexible or to spend more time working from home. The study recognizes that men may have traditionally been reluctant to seek flexible working arrangements because of an apprehension that they may be viewed as being less hard working or committed than their colleagues. The study aims to establish conclusively through hard data that flexible work can increase – rather than decrease – productivity by creating a workforce that is more equal, more balanced and less exhausted.
I believe this is an excellent initiative – in fact, what took it so long to come? There are so many elements of this argument that have been individually proven for some time now. The importance of work-life balance to the employee, positive impact on the overall productivity and even the technology-based solutions to enable the more flexible work place are already established. The study should serve to prove to organizations, colleagues and yes, even work-pressed men themselves that not only can a little flexibility never hurt anybody but it could actually be beneficial. Brace yourselves for the results – men everywhere may well have to start finding meaningful things to do with the extra time they find given to them but don’t look at me for help – chances are, I will be on the golf course!
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