Recent government initiatives such as the ‘Fresh Ideas for Work and Family Program’ have helped some businesses and organisations work towards managing these difficulties, however challenges are still being faced by many business owners and employees.
More than ever, Australians are experiencing difficulty in managing both work and family life. Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures illustrate that in the three years prior to November 2009, the number of workers who negotiated an agreement for flexible hours with employers, either formally or informally, fell from 40 per cent to approximately 30 per cent.
It is also being found that a family-friendly workplace culture must include the experiences and attitudes of men. As long as family responsibilities are assumed as the main concern of women only, men will continue to be seen as the secondary parent and women will continue to face bias in the workplace on the basis of their sex and stereotypical family responsibilities.
Encouraging men to be involved in sharing care rights from the beginning of a child’s life is an important part of supporting shared care and moving towards equality. Women are often faced with having to prioritise paid work and parenting, leaving little time for other areas important to them and thus affecting their health and wellbeing. Women are willing to avoid poor outcomes for their children, family and employers at a personal cost, this is certainly not the work-life balance we are striving to achieve.
Having family-friendly work practices means having to deal with current workplace attitudes about men and women’s roles. These attitudes have been held by executives or key stakeholders for many years, embedding them into their businesses or organisations. This can create many hurdles to implementing change, but although men may feel that using family-friendly policies will damage their career prospects, women will feel the most pressure to use these policies and sacrifice their personal and career aspirations.
Family-friendly workplaces make good business sense because they:
Attract and retain employees
Reduce sick leave and absenteeism
Increase staff morale, commitment and productivity
Promote a positive public image.
Experts indicate there are several distinctive qualities evident in a business that foster a healthy work-life balance.
Active role models of policies and practises at all levels
Excellent communication methods
Enjoyable work environments
Performance assessed on work contribution
Creativity, innovation and informed risk are encouraged, supported and rewarded
High levels of trust between managers and employees
Upward and downward communication and feedback
Recognition of the employee as a ‘whole person’ with their roles outside the workplace valued and respected
Traditionally speaking for women, when entering the workplace there is a cost to their career opportunities and for men, there is a cost to their relationships and bonds with their children and their family. But now, more than ever we have the opportunity to make changes that alleviate the stresses associated with being a working parent.