This is the time when individuals, organisations, and governments are working towards a more inclusive culture. However, it must be understood that women's representation at all levels will only increase when organisations offer workplace flexibility to their employees. Companies must start finding and implementing more ways to help employees balance work and family.
According to a recent study, only 45 per cent of employees said their managers regularly help them balance work and personal demands. However, the report duly noted that both women and men feel equally unsupported.
The secret to improving your employee satisfaction, elevating performance, and establishing a sound workplace culture boils down to just one aspect - workplace flexibility.
It's not an easy task to build a career, managing the complexities of raising children, and run a household, all at the same time. Studies show that about 40 per cent of employees have children at home, and 17 per cent of them do not benefit from any kind of support of a partner in juggling work-life balance. While balancing work and family is a consideration and an issue for both women and men, women continue to bear the burden in all aspects.
It's a given fact that women, across all races and ethnicities, are more likely to perform most or all of the household responsibilities, apart from their day jobs. While patriarchy and several other stigmas are still prevalent, there is one factor that can address this concern at large - workplace flexibility.
Assuming that childcare responsibility is only limited to women’s lives will never address core issues and, thus, will never lead to progression
There are firms, if only a few, which offer employees some flexibility to ease work-life friction. Ability to work part-time or telecommute is one such assistance. However, only a handful of companies address the unique challenges faced by employees who are also parents. For instance, on-site childcare is one factor of flexibility which is starting to pick up. Hwever, it remains an uncommon one. It's a proven fact that employees who know their children are taken care of back home or on-site focus well on their respective jobs.
Businesses and financial services can play a significant role to make it easier for working parents, and not just women, to fit in their schedules together.
Recently, in a conversation with SheThePeople.TV, renowned economist, Dr Shamika Ravi said that in India, implementations like maternity benefits will only work if we make paternity benefits mandatory with it. "Any maternity benefit (it used to be three months before, and now it is six months of paid employment) will lead to distorting the labour market away from women. Firms internalise such costs at the time of employment. So they will substitute women workers with men workers, to overcome the additional costs. By making paternity mandatory – there is no distortion," she observed.
Ravi, the Director of Research at Brookings India, and member of the economic advisory council to the PM, said several changes in legislation and policy initiatives would also go a long way in addressing the gender inequality in the workplace.
It's true that working women and entrepreneurs are scaling up the ladder, but they will not make it to the top unless there’s a collective effort towards making the workplaces more equal and just
Another study noted that organisations can experience several benefits if they implement workplace flexibility. Sixty-one per cent of global respondents said that flexibility led to an increase in profits. 83 per cent noticed an improvement in productivity, while 58 per cent of respondents felt flexibility improved the organisation's reputation as well.
There are several practical steps firms can consider to increase more flexibility:
Know your employees well - Firms must know who their employees are, where they come from, how they manage work, and most importantly, how they feel. Keep track of where employees are supposed to be for work - do they need to be in office or out of the office for meetings. Keep track of whether employees are fixed, fixed-mobile, mobile or they are working from home.
Work together towards stability - Carve out shared goals. After all, it's the same vision the employer and the employee works for. Therefore, make goals for workplace productivity together, identify needs and make blueprints for how goals can be accomplished together so there's less burden on employees at the end.
Encourage breaks - Another key factor is to encourage occasional breaks. It's a proven fact that mid breaks lead to better adaptability and flexibility in the workplace. This offers employees a chance to rest, recharge, and, therefore, connect with co-workers as well.
Make the transition, establish change - It's never a bad idea to research and observe other organisations and working bodies. Look for other business' success story to follow and transform your own workplace. This involves answering a number of hard questions and implementing the suggestions for efficiency and effectiveness. Create a plan to outline changes in office space, technology use, employee behaviours etc.