Flexibility in the workplace is a concept that has been around for quite some time, yet it remains a challenge for many organisations. The idea of flexibility is to provide employees with more control over when, where, and how they work, which can lead to increased productivity, improved work-life balance, and reduced stress. However, there is a pervasive stereotype that flexibility is primarily aimed at women, particularly working mothers, as they are seen as the primary caregivers for their children. This is a stereotype that needs to be challenged and ultimately eliminated, as we modernise the way we live and work, men and woman are wanting to become much more equal. These Stereotypes and our imbedded beliefs are what is holding us back from achieving the very thing so many of us want. When my daughter started school, I said to my husband So what day can you take her/ pick up and he looked at me with horror on his face and said- “I can’t be rocking up to work at 9.30 or leaving at 2.30 for pick up”- my response, Why? I manage to do it, or is it because I am a female that that is Ok but as a male you cannot? It took a discussion and eventually he agreed. It was a real wake up call to me how even in a house where we are very equal- those views still manage to creep in.

One of the main reasons why men are not engaging in flexible work arrangements is due to the stigmas and biases surrounding them.

Men are often thought of as the breadwinners of the family, and their primary role is to work and provide for their family. However, this outdated view fails to recognise that men also want to be involved in their family life, especially in parenting responsibilities. In fact, research has shown that men are increasingly interested in equalising parenting responsibilities with their partners, and this is where flexible working arrangements needs to be offered and supported for both Men and Women.

Despite them wanting this, men are still hesitant to take up flexible working arrangements due to the stigmas and biases that exist in many organisations. For instance, they may feel that their requests for flexible working arrangements will be viewed negatively by their colleagues or that they will not be seen as committed to their work. These stereotypes and biases create a culture that is not conducive to equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of gender.

Another challenge that men face when it comes to flexible working arrangements is a lack of senior support.

In many organisations, senior managers are not supportive of flexible working arrangements. If the Leadership team is not supportive of flexible working, that will be filtered down across the rest of the organisation.  This lack of support can discourage men from taking up flexible working arrangements, further reinforcing the stereotypes that surround them. If we want to support gender equality, we need to lead by example across the leadership team and pave the way.

In addition to the stigmas and biases, men are also twice as likely as women to have their requests for flexible working arrangements rejected.

This further exacerbates the problem and prevents men from taking up flexible working arrangements. This issue needs to be addressed by organisations if they are serious about promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Men and Women should be seen as equal employees and if that is the case, men should be equally as entitled to have flexible work arrangements.

Addressing these challenges is not easy, but here are a few things you can do:

An excellent example of an organisation that is paving the way in terms of flexible working is Clough in Perth Australia. They have completely transformed the company by implementing several new policies to foster gender equity across the business. After refreshing the company’s flexible working policy and encouraging executives to lead by example, the percentage of men engaging in flexible working and utilising parental leave benefits has risen to around 50%. This shows how feasible the implementation of change can be across an organisation, and how it can be done in a short period of time.

We need to break down the stereotypes and biases that surround flexible working arrangements. By enabling men to work flexibly, we can create a more inclusive workplace that benefits everyone. Let’s take action and create a workplace where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

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