THE chase for work-life balance appears to be working well for women, but it could be hurting opportunities for advancement among their male counterparts, according to a new report.
The report, compiled from a survey conducted by Chief Executive Women and Bain & Co, has found a worrying reverse gender bias in the workplace as the corporate community begins to embrace the benefits of a more flexible work environment.
While the likes of Westpac and Telstra are embracing flexibility, the report says fewer than half of Australia's companies have a workplace policy on the practice.
"And even when such policies exist, they are not always effectively utilised," it says.
CEW and Bain & Co surveyed 1030 Australian employers and employees across a range of sectors and found the top reasons workers seek flexibility are caregiving for children or elderly parents and a desire for work-life balance.
"The good news is there is a powerful case for implementing flexible work arrangements, as they create positive advocacy about the organisation when widely used," says the report.
"Our research also debunked the myth that women seeking flexible options have checked out of their careers. We found that women who work flexibly are equally, if not more, committed to reaching their full career potential than those who don't.
"However, the same trends do not hold true for men. In fact, advocacy was lower for men who are or have worked flexibly.
"This suggests that organisations have not yet cracked the code on how to make such arrangements work for male employees."
Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Agency has revealed that 48 per cent of non-public-sector organisations with more than 100 employees have a formal policy in place for flexible working arrangements.
However, the uptake is relatively modest, at 38 per cent for women and 28 per cent for men.
In order to boost acceptance of flexibility across genders, the report suggests employers need to actively encourage uptake and make it standard for every role.
It says employers should both ensure that these arrangements are working for both men and women and create a culture that actively supports the changes, including a strong commitment from the CEO and leadership team.
Flexibility also needs clear policies and the technological back-up to facilitate it, the report says.
"If organisations get this right, flexible work arrangements can be used to boost productivity and advocacy, increase employee retention, provide the conditions for increased representation of women in senior leadership positions, and enable men and women to participate more equally as caregivers and secure a better work-life balance," it says.
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