“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.” —Thomas Edison, inventor
The FLUID Diversity Mentoring Programme has received its highest number of applications in its 6th-year history and we are delighted to be speaking with the over 150 potential mentors and mentees as part of what we hope will be a transformative experience for those who selected to be in the programme.
Although each conversation with a prospective participant is unique, there have been some common themes coming through for 2018-2019. High on the agenda of topics is the issue of work/life balance with particular concerns raised from women at all stages of their careers about continuing to progress while balancing caring responsibilities.
Many of the programme’s mentee applicants noted their frustration about not seeing very many examples of women in leadership roles who are also parents or who work flexibly; while a good number of our female mentors recognised the need to act as role models to practitioners who also dare to have a life outside of work! So why is this such an issue for architecture and construction sectors?
One of the reasons is that because construction is such as a male-dominated industry flexibility is deemed unnecessary. Male workers are considered to be available whenever needed - and employers assume that social constructs will ensure that someone else will be available to take on any caring responsibilities and that men would sacrifice for their careers. I believe that many men want, and need to have a better balance between work and home.
“We all struggle with work-life balance and there’s no easy solution. I think everyone needs to find the right balance for themselves and to do this, we need to have more dialogue about work and family, especially among men, and at higher levels of the corporate hierarchy.” — Max Schireson, Former CEO of MongoDB
In addition, 80-90% of businesses in architecture and construction are SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises, defined as 250 people or less). According to the Office of National Statistics, the majority of those employed in construction work in organisations of 1-9 people.
What employees want
According to research by Timewise Flexible Jobs Index, 87% of respondents noted a desire to work flexibly, while only 4% of jobs in the £20K plus salary range are advertised as open to flexible working within the construction sector.
Speaking recently with the owner of a small architectural practice they admitted that they had found offering flexible working far too challenging. In their view each project needed to have a full-time ‘plus’ commitment from a job runner in order to provide a good service.
While this reflects the traditional way of running practice projects I believe one of the big challenges within architecture and construction is to rethink how we design jobs, allocate tasks and think about flexibility.
Often flexibility is seen as less than the standard working week. Working part-time is just one of many options which include compressed hours (full time over fewer days), working remotely, staggered hours (different start and finish times) or annualised hours (full-time with flexibility about when they work) and this can also feature “core working” hours”.
While many smaller businesses may not have a person delegated to deal with HR issues there are resources available to assist with developing a policy, tracking time and managing communication. There are huge benefits for small employers who wish to attract and retain the right talent, so they should not shy away from tackling this, particularly as demands for skilled workers create challenges for all.
8 tips for getting flexible:
Establish clear processes for how flexible working will work within the organisation. Ensure this is documented and shared with everyone.
Be clear about roles and responsibilities that employees and the senior team have in making the flexible working initiative in your company a success.
Communication is key, so ensure that all lines and methods are sufficient and encouraged
Flexible working can offer an opportunity to review how productivity and outputs are measured. It is important to measure people on their outputs rather than seeing them work.
Assess how flexible working will impact the company’s culture and take action to manage this change accordingly
Pilot any new initiatives so you can see how they work without fully committing to them.
Be clear on your goals (monitor and review them regularly) and wherever possible embed flexible approaches into your business strategy and career pathways.
Promote flexible working as a company benefit on job vacancies, so that it can be used to attract new candidates and not just to retain existing people.
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development - Flexible Working Factsheet