Flexibility no longer a lifestyle choice

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Flexibility no longer a lifestyle choice

Australian work norms have changed completely over the last decade and flexible work is a prime example. Once considered the domain of mothers returning to work part-time, job flexibility is now desired by all sections of the professional workforce. From graduates to parents, from busy singletons to those nearing retirement, an increasing number of professionals are now opting to blend work with travel, voluntary work, elder care or further study. 

With co-parenting on the rise and more women taking on the role of primary salary earner, it’s also pretty clear that fathers want to spend more quality time caring for their children and have a fulfilling career too. According to research by the Diversity Council Australia, 64% of men say they would like to choose their start and finish times, 56% would like to work a compressed week, 34% would work some regular hours at home if given the option, and 20% would elect to work part-time in order to have greater work/life balance. Worryingly, 18% of men, including 37% of young fathers (aged under 35) have ‘seriously considered’ leaving an organisation due to lack of flexibility.

At a later stage, many professionals also prefer reduced work hours during the last 10 years of their careers in order to ease into a more relaxed lifestyle. This trend will only grow as the age of retirement - and our workforce - creeps ever upwards. The fact is the idea of ‘living to work’ is gradually fading from our workforce culture, even in the most demanding professions founded on the 50-hour week and presenteeism. Instead the desire for work/life balance is the new driver for change and it’s here we still have some work to do as a nation. The recent release of the OECD Better Life Index ranks Australia 29 out of 36 countries in the area of work/life balance, behind New Zealand, the UK and Germany.

This got me thinking about the importance of work/life balance and flexibility in our own business.  It’s not just the many part-time, contract and temporary assignments we fill across accounting, strategy and finance, technology and wealth management each quarter, but the shape of our own workforce. Flexibility and autonomy are highly prized by our consultants and big part of what attracts them to a career at Marshall McAdam. Mirroring the workforce in general, their reasons are many and varied. Some are co-parenting or pursuing post-graduate studies, while others are simply invested in important side projects like music, sport or travel which reinforces the need for ‘flexibility for all.’

In fact, we’ve built a fantastic team by pursuing an agenda of flexibility for the purpose of achieving high performance – evidently this is reflected in our growth over the last five years and a staff retention rate well above the industry average.  My firm belief is organisations that don’t have a strategy in place to find, attract, on-board and retain talented people who want flexible work arrangements, will simply miss out on access to a growing part of the talent pool in the future.

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