Improving workforce flexibility really can improve your business… gemaker grew by 300%

It’s an issue discussed in business circles with escalating frequency. Workforce flexibility. Particularly for women who wish to maintain careers while having families.

There are in fact a multitude of impacts being experienced by businesses that have chosen not to embrace flexible working arrangements to help keep women in the workforce.

Figures released in the Ernst & Young’s Untapped Opportunity report show that the cost of excluding women from the workforce is now in the tens of billions. This is founded on issues such as talent drainage, loss of corporate knowledge, wasted education and unrealised leadership potential in the pool of talented women walking out the door.

It’s becoming very clear that continuing to ask women to choose between work and family is not working – not for individual women, for businesses or for the Australian economy.

In view of this, it’s something of a worry that a recent World of Work Report released by Randstad reveals that Australian employers are the least open to flexible working arrangements in the Asia Pacific region, with 79% of local workers saying they are unable to work flexibly in their current position.

We believe businesses need to start reframing the way they think about work; they need to start moving away from the traditional 38-hour week in the office.

This means we need to see more virtual offices, more telecommuting positions, flexible hours, greater acceptance of career breaks that are the result of women having families, and a much greater acknowledgement of the fact that women do not deserve to have their careers derailed by virtue of their biology.

In support of the flexible work concept, a recent poll by workspace provider Regus of 370 senior ICT managers and business owners also found that “flexible workplace practices such as remote working and co-working can help foster innovation within an organisation”.

Here at gemaker we are very proud of our business model, which we believe offers our workforce the ultimate in working flexibility.

We employ some 15 staff, who are each experts in their fields of science, engineering, business development, commercialisation, intellectual property or market research and analysis. Our entire team, mostly women with young children, works from home. They choose their own hours and sign on for work on a project-by-project basis, rather than committing to a set number of hours per week.

All our staff are provided with professional development opportunities, regardless of the number of hours they work. We believe it’s not about asking people to sit in an office so we can monitor them from 9-5 every day of the week.

It’s about encouraging people to bring their best ideas, their expertise and their professional experience to the table when the work needs to be done. This approach acknowledges that people have competing commitments that they have to meet outside of their working lives.

This flexible model is already paying off, with gemaker posting more than a 300% increase in revenue in the last 12 months alone. It’s these sort of figures that have convinced me that the benefits of flexible work extend far beyond the individual employee.

For businesses, it means being able to pick and choose from some extremely talented, extremely experienced people, who would otherwise not be in the workforce at all. It means paying people for the hours they work, rather than paying them for being in the office for a set period of time.

As businesses, we can’t just keep struggling with issues of dwindling productivity, talent shortages and loss of corporate knowledge that result from women continuing to leave the workforce. We have to actively seek a solution.