Work life balance. It’s the 21st century’s buzz phrase, as companies vie for the attention of Australians juggling various commitments and responsibilities.

Turns out as a nation, we like to have choice. We like flexible working arrangements, whether this be the hours or days we work, split shifts or job sharing, or remote work locations – because after all, the internet makes it possible to work from nearly anywhere.

Companies have embraced flexibility because it works. In fact, according to Bankwest’s 2017 Future of Business Leadership Report, 45% of small and medium business leaders motivate staff by offering flexible work hours.

But flexible work practices also make sense from a bottom line point of view. Business opportunities can be won or lost instantly, and having a team that is given the freedom to work in the way that best suits them often increases commitment, meaning businesses can be more responsive. Having a team that works remotely, or as contractors, is also a great way to save money in desk space or overhead costs – allowing the business to invest in areas that will drive business growth.

Most commonly, those who rely on the ability to work flexibly are mothers. Recent gender workplace statistics[1] show the participation rate for women is 59.1% and account for 71.6% of part-time employees, largely those managing work and family responsibilities.

Interestingly, being employed full time, or self-employed, prior to children drastically influences a woman’s tendency to re-enter the workforce. 84% of self-employed mothers and 76% of fulltime employees will return highly than a mere 13% returning who weren’t employed during pregnancy.

Why work?

CoreData’s inaugural 2017 research on Women in Leadership for Business Women Australia revealed that while money is an important and necessary factor in motivating women in leadership positions to work, a sense of achievement is the primary motivation. Interestingly, while more than half of female leaders feel appropriately remunerated for the role they perform, more than a third believe they earn less than their male counterparts performing the same role.

And of course from here stems the long debated argument about equality in the work force. It’s not uncommon to hear companies talk of their aim to increase the representation of women on boards, of their support for their female workers, however there remain significant gaps and the numbers speak for themselves. The government gender equality scorecard released in November revealed men, on average, still earn a staggering $26k a year more than women and that number just keeps snowballing. The average super balance for women when they retire is approximately $115,000 less than the average for men, sitting at $157,050 versus $270,710 respectively[2].

However flexibility in the workplace is not just about encouraging women back to the workforce.  Men, too, need to be able to benefit from job sharing, working from home and flexi hours, as having employer support for flexible working conditions for both men and women will ultimately lead to better outcomes for working families.

Businesses are talking the talk but now we need them to walk the walk. Flexible work options for men and women, paid maternity leave and ongoing superannuation payments help bridge the equality gap, but there is still work to be done. This isn’t a women’s issue, this is everyone’s issue.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Australian Government- Gender workplace statistics at a glance 2017

[2] ASFA Superannuation Account Balances By Age and Gender, October 2017