Is Flexible Workspace the Next Step to Cracking The Glass Ceiling?

Flexibility is about more than being a part-time worker with the requisite drop in salary or full-time with the occasional day working from home

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A good work/life balance is something that most professionals will admit is key to their happiness and enjoyment of their roles. But finding that balance isn't just about avoiding long hours at work, it's about building a culture in your business that is open-minded, avoids "presenteeism' and puts flexible working at its heart.

50per cent of employees globally are now working outside of their main office headquarters for at least 2.5 days a week and 85per cent confirm that productivity has increased in their business as a result of greater flexibility.

Inclusive Environments Boost Profit

Interestingly, businesses that favour inclusion policies are proven to be more successful. According to a McKinsey report in 2017, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 15per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability compared to those in the fourth quartile.

It's no coincidence that businesses are losing talented female professionals in their 30s and early 40s, just at the point when many are starting families. The two are inextricably linked – and if it continues to be so, business opportunities to grow, from diversity, inclusion and profits perspective, will be stunted. Now more so than ever before, people want to work with businesses that reflect and champion their own ethos – diversity matters, and more people than ever are questioning the status quo if it is not being practiced by their employers.

Flexible Working is More Than Just "Part-time'

Returning mothers can greatly benefit from flexible working as they juggle a career and young children. In India, 85per cent of business people thinks that flexible working helps to keep mothers in the workforce, who would otherwise have stepped away from their roles.

So what does flexibility actually look like in this case? Flexibility is about more than being a part-time worker with the requisite drop in salary or full-time with the occasional day working from home, which can be difficult to justify when work gets busy and "face-time' is considered more important – it's about a truly flexible work environment.

Rather than sticking rigidly to the idea of either full time or part time, there are newer working models that many women are taking advantage of, such as job-sharing, where one full-time position is filled by two or more people working on a part-time basis. Employers can support employees to develop a workable system for both parties, which in return can bring two sets of skills and experience combined into one role, whilst also providing the flexibility desired for the individuals.

Paving the Way for Better Female Representation in Business

With the gender pay gap issue recently seeing its second year of reporting by businesses, we're still seeing a worrying trend that talented women are struggling to be promoted and the pay disparity that coincides with this is clear. The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre's Gender Equity Insights report found that a combination of employer-funded paid parental leave, equal female board representation, on-site childcare, and flexible work arrangements were key to keeping mothers in the workforce.

The stigma that comes with the phrase "part-time" – insinuating a lack of commitment and responsibility – need not apply. Businesses would do well to champion inclusive environments where everyone is valued for the contribution they make, rather than the time spent at their desk. Promoting women provides an enormous economic opportunity that many companies are at risk of missing out on if they continue to focus on presence over productivity.