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How Flexible Working Policies Are Working For Aussie Families

Dads are taking on a bigger child care role.

15/09/2016 6:44 AM AEST | Updated 15/09/2016 6:46 AM AEST
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More Aussie dads are taking advantage of flexible workplace policies, allowing them to spend more time with their children.

Aussie dads are taking advantage of flexible working arrangements, with double the number working from home or part time to care for their children compared to 20 years ago.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 30 percent of dads now take advantage of flexible work hours to look after young children (under 12), compared with 16 percent of dads two decades ago.

"The number of dads working from home to care for their children doubled from seven percent to 14 percent, while dads who worked part-time to care for their children rose from one to five per cent," said Lisa Connolly, ABS director of Family and Community Statistics.

While mums still do most of the child care -- 90 percent of dads with children under 15 are employed -- families are loving the ability to embrace better suited working conditions.

Remarkable Business advisor, franchise expert and business coach Tracy Eaton said agile working policies were increasingly important for both big and small business to adopt as parents now want a balance between working and being able to care for children.

Remarkable Business
Business coach Tracy Eaton says workplaces must introduce agile work policies or risk losing quality staff.

"Having flexible hours, work days, leave and being able to work from home reduces the pressure on parents, allows them to be flexible and adaptable which in turn increases engagement and productivity, reducing absenteeism and in fact 'presenteeism' as well," she told The Huffington Post Australia.

"(Of course) life is busy whether you have a family or not and flexible policies support everyone to have a better lifestyle that works."

What businesses need to offer

Eaton said workplaces that wanted to retain valued staff should offer working parents a variety of flexible options.

"It's important to offer working parents flexible leave, carer's leave, job sharing, flexible start and finish times, the ability to work from home when necessary, the option to buy additional annual leave and the ability to split days (to take time out in the middle of a day)," she said.

"With small business, often the owner is seeking lifestyle flexibility themselves so are naturally more open to this with their teams also."

"Flexibility means the option to adjust from week to week too, based on family demands and personal commitments, not a set arrangement."

She said while big business were starting to adopt flexible working policies, small business were leading the way.

"With small business, often the owner is seeking lifestyle flexibility themselves so are naturally more open to this with their teams also," she said.

"In corporations, the people reviewing someone's desire for flexibility possibly also desires it, yet they're constrained by the policies and often don't have the autonomy themselves to endorse it without first changing policy and jumping through hoops.

"I believe it comes down to the ability to respond to change. In smaller business change moves faster. There are less levels or layers in the business, and policies can be set and changed rapidly, without huge stakeholder lists, executive endorsement or even board approvals."

Family Clean
Jo and Rowena Jongejan believe all businesses must offer flexible work policies.

Small business show the big guys the way

Brisbane small business owner Jo Jongejan says his family business, Family Clean, has always offered flexible roles to allow for family commitments, with all 10 of his employees taking advantage of flexible working arrangements.

"Giving people basic respect and compassion is at the core of our business culture and it has proven very successful for us so far," he told HuffPost Australia.

"We're strong advocates of a flexible work policy and these days it's not just the children of employees that need to be considered, but also elderly parents or relatives, which can put enormous pressure on families."

Building a compassionate working culture can have enormous benefits for both parties and build strong loyalty

He said offering flexible policies was good for business.

"Being a smaller business with limited resources and a budget that comes directly out of your own pocket does make you think about the benefits of productivity and cohesiveness when it comes to a flexible work policy," he said.

"Building a compassionate working culture can have enormous benefits for both parties and build strong loyalty, but will only work successfully if there's give and take both ways with practicalities and accountability to be considered."

Paul Connell
Unilever employee Paul Connell takes advantage of the company's flexible work policy so he can look after his young son.

Larger corporations adopt family-friendly policies

Some larger businesses are investing in flexible working arrangements though, as working dad Paul Connell can attest.

He has worked for Unilever for the past nine years and needed to alter his working arrangements after becoming a dad.

"My routine has changed quite dramatically," he told HuffPost Australia.

"I am now an early riser, getting my son up in the morning (or rather he wakes me) around 6am. I then start my working day earlier to make sure I can leave at 5pm.

"I want to spend quality time with my son and family and know that the hours I have spent away from him have been worth it. That way when he's old enough to listen, I can tell him proudly about what I've done with my day."

Connell said Unilever's flexible working policy helped him adapt to fatherhood.

"Unilever recognises that agility and greater flexibility in the workplace, for men and women, is fundamental to sustainable business growth," he said.

"All employees are encouraged to tap into these opportunities to help enable them to better balance the different priorities in their life -- whether that be family commitments, individual pursuits or their own health and well-being."

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