Women in part time and flexible roles, often as a result of returning to the workforce after maternity or family based leave, bear the assumptions that they are not pulling their weight and are in fact a drain on the organisation.
Considering that productivity gains are the goal of so many businesses in the aim of reducing costs and increasing profits, what if the opposite was in fact true, and the key was as simple as employing a greater proportion of women in flexible roles?
Ernst and Young Productivity Pulse Wave 3 identified that women in flexible roles wasted only 11.1% of their working hours versus 14.5% of the rest of the working population. These figures equate to a saving of $1.4 billion by employing more women in flexible roles, an extra week and a half of productive hours per position per year. Women in flexible roles are also more likely to be excluded from training or promotion opportunities as their addition to productivity is overlooked and undervalued instead of being rewarded. At the very least, women in flexible roles with greater efficiency should be as highly regarded as their less productive colleagues in full time roles.
Having identified that increasing the percentage of women in flexible roles will increase productivity, then what? What can employers do to make these increases happen?
Employers who keep links with female employees who are taking parental leave increase the probability of them returning. Inviting these employees to stay up to date with industry training either provided in the workplace or by distance education, and perhaps incentivising with increased parental leave payments or bonuses can be a highly effective tool.
The obvious solution is to provide flexible working hours and childcare to encourage women to return to the workplace after the completion of paid and/or unpaid family leave. Larger and more forward thinking employers have established partnerships with childcare centres close by, or built a facility onsite, or in the most generous of cases, arranged for the employment of a nanny.
So what is flexible work? Anything outside the norms of the traditional office based Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm working week. This can include a flexible location, from home or somewhere else more convenient than the office, changing start or finish times or flexible patterns, for example 4 longer days or split shifts and flexible rostering.
Not only do flexible arrangements, particularly for women, increase productivity, they have an even greater flow on effect of motivating and energising staff, increasing satisfaction levels and therefore increasing retention rates and reducing absenteeism and improving business performance as a whole.
With undisputed proof of the value of flexible working arrangements for women on the bottom line and business performance, it’s time for employers and managers to shake up their traditional 9am-5pm mentality to the benefit of all.