The future of work – what challenges do women face?

Workingmums.co.uk has published a new report on the future of work in celebration of its 10th anniversary.

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The Future of Work report is a collection of articles by some of the leading experts in diversity and flexible working on issues such as childcare, flexible or smart working and family support – outlining some of the main challenges for the future.

It is published as Workingmums.co.uk launches an employer survey aimed at finding out what they see as the main challenges for the future.

In her introduction to the report, Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, talks about how she set up Workingmums.co.uk in 2006 and the difficulties at the time of persuading employers about the benefits of offering flexible working. She says:

“A decade ago it was hard to persuade businesses about the benefits of flexible working and there was little research around. There is a much better understanding of the business benefits of flexible working and diversity now and good examples of best practice, of companies walking the talk.”

She highlights examples of sharing best practice, returner initiatives, shared parental leave, the growing number of women setting up their own businesses and debates around gender pay equality and women on the board to show the kind of progress that has been made since 2006.

But she says challenges remain.

“There is still much more work to be done to make flexible working the norm, rather than the exception, and to support women to get as far up the career ladder as they want to go,” says Nissim.

Those challenges include global economic disruption, maternity discrimination and the availability of affordable – and flexible – childcare.

Contributors to the report include:

– Chris Parke and Jo Lyon, founders of coaching consultancy Talking Talent – who talk about the priorities of addressing long term career management, managing shared parental leave and increasing male advocates for diversity. They say:

“We need to see gender balance as a business challenge that requires proper budget and involves every employee from across the business. We need to shift cultures in a faster way and invest in the talent pipeline much earlier in both male and female careers.”

– Professor Clare Kelliher, Cranfield School of Management – who highlights issues for the future related to flexible working, including the impact of flexible working on teams, making part-time work work and the potential tensions between agile businesses and employees’ needs for flexible working.

–  Jennifer Liston-Smith, Director of Coaching & Consultancy at My Family Care – who talks about the issues for family care over the next decade, from maternity coaching to best flexible working support and Shared Parental Leave as well as other forms of parental leave. She says:

“I think parental leave is a great place to look for more flexibility and a very good way to enable parents. However, a fresh approach taken by some employers is to provide sabbaticals or unlimited leave potentially accessible to all on the basis that everyone has a life.”

– Dave Dunbar, Head of Digital Workplace at Nationwide Building Society, who makes the case for flexible working overwhelming, even in the most cash constrained of times. He writes:

“The real case isn’t about the property cost savings that inevitably feature. It’s bigger than that. It’s about your people being able to cope, in the good times where productivity has to meet the challenge of rapid growth, and in the bad times when productivity has to meet the challenge of cost initiatives.”

– Gail Kinman, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology and Director of the Research Centre for Applied Psychology at the University of Bedfordshire, writes about the challenge of work overload brought about by the ‘always on’ economy and the need to manage remote working effectively to avoid burnout. She says:

“Flexibility is not a panacea and under some conditions it may intensify work-life conflict rather than reduce it and increase the likelihood of burnout.”

– Andy Lake, Editor of Flexibility.co.uk, outlines the challenges and possibilities for smart working if organisations and policymakers look at it in a more joined up way, for instance, through investing in work hubs. He says:

“The potential to rethink how we work, where we work, when we work and why we work is immense. Yet most organisations approach smart working with extreme caution. At times it seems that each one wishes to reinvent the wheel.”

– Ben Black,  Director of My Family Care, outlines the main priorities for employers looking to provide family support for their staff, from childcare to elder care. On employer support for childcare, he says:

“I think we will get to is a place where all employers can offer some sort of childcare support. Remember childcare remains one of the lowest paid professions so in theory it should pay nearly every employer to provide some childcare help.”

The report can be downloaded for free here.

Author: Editorial Team

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