Technology is the enabler of flexible working for both men and women but when it comes to the measure of the amount of work done, productivity should the focus rather than the number of hours spent in the office.
This was the general consensus at a Diverse City Careers and Workplace Gender Equality Agency panel discussion of driving a strategic approach to flexibility.
GHD chief information officer, Elizabeth Harper, said technology is already in place to enable remote working but when it comes to flexible working, it’s all about outcomes. Harper indicated that CIOs should step up in this conversation.
“Having those tools enables people to produce those outcomes at a time and place that suit them. CIOs need to drive the conversation and go beyond in figuring out what else they can do to support women. Our industry lacks sufficient female role models, it must be led from the top,” she indicated.
Macquarie University faculty of business and economics Teleworking expert and academic lecturer, Dr Yvette Blount, said talk about telecommuting has been going on since the 1970s and it is still an issue as it was back then.
“We have been talking about this for a very long time but it’s still not business as usual. Even in the IT sector, you see people like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer not allowing working from home because of a lack of collaboration.
“Part of this is a result of management issues – how to manage a team that comes into the office everyday through to freelancers you will never meet,” she said.
Telstra customer service unit director, Reid Johnson, claimed he chose to work flexible hours to have work life balance, as well as fit in some time for himself to help him boost his productivity at work. He also mentioned communication with his boss has gotten better as he moved towards a flexible working model.
“I’ve managed to fit in a five-day work week into a four-day work week. It’s forced me to be more productive at work. We get to the more important things at work instead of mulling over unnecessary things,” he said.
IDG Communications president, Susan Searle, who moderated the panel, said women have been implementing this work behaviour for years as a result of family commitments but it’s only been in recent times that this was extended to men.
“Men and women are different – when I told my colleagues I was doing this for the first time, the women said they’ve been doing it for ages. But for men, even if they’ve tried it, they go back to working full-time. Men are okay to prioritise work but women are more nurturing,” Johnson said.
Workplace Gender Equality Agency strategy and engagement executive manager, Yolanda Beattie, said one of the issues with gender equality is the rise in the number of businesses looking to fix issues with women rather than looking at cultural and workplace issues.
“There needs to be an integrated way to tackling inequality in the workplace and critical to this is flexibility. We need to be strategic, and the foundations to any gender equality conversation are pay equity, workplace flexibility, and best practice people management,” she said.
Thoughtworks Australia chief operating officer, Kristan Vingrys, stated moving forward, employees should become more outcome focused and meet targets before taking that a step further and working remotely. As a manager, he said people should look to be flexible in the way they work.
“If you’re an employee, talk to your manager about what you want to achieve within a timeframe and regularly doing that would build that trust and confidence. It’s a slow transition. Managers should set a good example and be open to the idea of being outcome focused. It’s all about creating a culture,” he added.