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The Man-ifesto of Flexible Working

As a millennial, flexible working is becoming an increasingly hot topic for me. As a man however, I notice there is a stigma around men taking paternity leave or other flexible arrangements.

Across Scotland, Flexible working is becoming an increasingly adopted practice. However, despite the availability of flexible working increasing, male employees seem reluctant to take advantage of the accommodations; or if they do, they are often hesitant to declare that they have done so.

Recent studies found that flexible working can make men feel discouraged or even harshly judged by employers; many men even reporting that they find that flexible working only benefits women. Collaboratively, CEW and B&C interviewed 1,300 workers who were asked how highly they would recommend their employer in terms of promotion opportunity. Results found that men with flexible working arrangements were less likely to recommend their employer than those who did not. This suggests that men feel that flexible working could hamper their careers prospects; potentially delaying or even negating promotion. However, real world models show that flexible working has no impact on promotion in other companies.

Take Brian Hills, the Head of Data at The Data Lab, who works a flexible schedule and is still able to progress his career. There's certainly a lot of progress being made by companies to care more about output than input.

Other research found that workplace culture plays a role in how their employees interpret flexible working. Testing full time workers, researchers find that men are more likely to shorten their parental leave if they believe the arrangement will mean taking a cut to wages. This suggests that men are concerned that their employers will make less accommodations for those who recruited a flexible schedule. Men were found to also shorten their parental leave if other fathers in the office don’t make use of the service; suggesting that women taking up the flexible working schedules doesn’t impact men’s decision making.

As The Guardian suggests in this article, a change in workplace culture is

needed to make flexible working more inclusive for both men and woman. According to the article, the nature of fatherhood is changing; where previously men were “bread-winners”, women are now also pursuing their careers, and fathers are taking more active roles in childcare. According to Gennaro Folino, a retail design manager interviewed in the article, he took parental leave because he “lost his dad growing up and [didn’t] want to miss out on time with [his son] Julian”. His workplace also made it clear to employees that flexible working was something everyone was entitled to, showing that change needs to start at the top and trickle down.

We’re seeing more and more working men taking on flexible working as the new generations move up into the workforce. According to the Telegraph, 84% of men want to or already are working flexibly in the UK. To enact change, the government and employers both need to set the standard, showing men and women alike that flexible working is the way forward in term of productivity and employee retention.

by James Hendry

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