How can workplaces value talent and effectively integrate work and life?

Organisations often play an important role when it comes to creating a workplace culture that encourages life/work integration whilst offering meaningful work and career pathways for dual career families. But the problem we have today is that many of the organisational practices and policies that define today’s workplace were typically designed for a society in which the men worked as the primary breadwinner of the family whilst the women stayed home to look after the kids. The world of work has changed rapidly across the globe as increasing number of women are now seeking employment – and dual career households is becoming a norm in many of the first world countries.

One of significant factors contributing to this trend in recent decades, is that, more women than men are attaining university degrees, including higher degrees. This means a large number of women have now started to seek full time employment than ever before. Many of these working women, not all, do start a family, have a working partner/spouse or have both during their gendered life course. In some circumstances, the career-carer obstacle course may not be an easy one to navigate. Sometimes life takes control over work/career especially when dual career families make deliberate choices to relocate to become part of the global economy or to gain international work experience.

I was faced with similar contextual choices when my husband and I decided to move permanently to Australia five years ago with two young children under the age of six. Like most working parents in Australia, we also had to make some deliberate choices regarding our careers when we first moved to Australia. We simply could not afford long day care as well as after school care while I was on a research fellowship. It made sense for my husband to put his IT career on hold and totally immerse himself in the messy domesticities as a stay-home-dad for two and a half years. In fact, we did not have the option of blending both our careers with care – but for us it was an EITHER-OR situation – that is, either one of us had to give up career to care for our young children. Soon after my fellowship, I took a career break while my husband went back to work.

When my youngest started pre-school, I decided to re-enter the workforce. I was not only looking for a career shift but also flexible work that supported the different needs of women like myself who are often at different stages of personal, family or working lives. Rapid Context’s flexible-work arrangements seemed extremely attractive to me – a perfect blend for doing meaningful work but with radical flexibility that supported my life priorities and caring demands of a young family. Something that was most important to me during that phase of my life was being able to combine my career with some flexibility.

I have been with Rapid Context for almost two years now, but it has not only redefined the way I work but also how I see my career path as being flexible. At Rapid Context, the way we work is more than having flexible work policies. Rapid Context’s flexibility business model is built on the mutually benefiting relationship between care and career. Personally, for me, Rapid Context has redefined my working norms in such a way that now I feel successful at both work and at home. Genuine flexibility is what matters at Rapid Context that not only harnesses the different skill-sets of the team members but also enables us to choose where, when and how many hours we put in.

We also have some flexibility options to create a happy balance between personal and professional demands of life. For me, I started with three days (at office) and slowly increased to four (three days at office and one day working from home). From February last year, I scaled up to full-time capacity with my son starting pre-school. I still have flexibility to work some days from home to accommodate school activities and routines of my children. Working flexibly means having some degree of autonomy regarding my working hours, working days, office days and working from home days. On the days when I am working from home, I make sure not to schedule conference calls at 7am in the morning or late in the day around school pick-ups. It’s all about the culture and compassionate colleagues at Rapid Context where it is O.K to discuss life priorities and commitments outside of work that allows employees to flex their schedules to accommodate needing to leave early for school Rostrum speech presentation, or parent teacher meetings.

What matters to us as Rapid Contexters is not the office “facetime” hours but the ability to deliver academic rigour through Deep Work aimed at solving complex and wicked organisational problems rapidly. At Rapid Context, having children and juggling care with career does not make us less ambitious – we still aim for a fulfilling and rewarding career but without compromising the priorities of life.

As a working mum juggling two young children, there will always be some “give and take” and there are no “one-size fits all” flexibility options that provide the right blend of work-life balance for everyone. To me, career is like a marathon and not a sprint race – that allows me to flex up or flex down as my life priorities change.

If you are one of the many organisations faced with the challenge of not having enough talent or how to create the enabling environment to retain talent, then get in touch with us. Through our new program offering we help organisations attract and retain their top talent. The Rapid Connect program is a tailored program that allows organisations to create the changes that they need to attract and retain talent by asking “female employees in all positions and at all levels what they need” and creating a workplace that effectively integrates work with life priorities.

Priya Chattier is a senior research consultant with Rapid Context. She has expertise in qualitative research design, mixed-methods, survey design, applied social research in gender, and monitoring and evaluation. Extensive research experience on gender issues in the South Pacific region, including Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Papua New Guinea, including field experience in diverse and marginalised communities in remote islands.

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