Striking the perfect balance
Flexible working might be more common for women, but it’s growing ever more popular with men working at Shell. Ask Luis Flores, who recently took 14 weeks’ paid parental leave.
In June this year, the Committee for Perth published the research report, 'Filling the Pool’. Part-sponsored by Shell, it looked in detail into some of the reasons behind the lack of women at senior levels of organisations. One of the key findings was that firms tend to see flexible work practices and the granting of parental leave as primarily a woman’s issue. The discoveries have encouraged Shell to continue to pursue a progressive policy that aims to normalise flexible working hours for everyone, regardless of their gender. It’s a policy with two key goals: to combat gender inequality in the workplace and increase the productivity and motivation of employees.
One employee who has benefited from Shell’s forward-thinking policy is Luis Flores, who has been based in Perth managing the contracts and procurement of wells equipment for the past three years. Thanks to Shell’s parental and flexible working policies, Luis and his wife, Flo, were able to share the childcare efforts when looking after their children Amelia and Lukas. This allowed them to spend quality time with their children while maintaining their respective rewarding careers.
Luis first took parental leave in 2011 after the birth of Amelia. It was a new concept for him, but after hearing about the possibility of taking paid leave from a colleague who had done the same, he jumped at the chance.
Following the birth of his son Lukas, Luis was keen to get involved at home once again. Shell Australia’s policy made it simple for Luis to take 14 calendar weeks’ paid parental leave to help look after his young son. “We don’t have the support of extended family, as we recently moved here from Melbourne,” he said. “I also wanted to spend time with Lukas rather than putting him straight into childcare when my wife went back to work. It’s been fantastic.”
Apart from having to adjust to spending most of his time with adults again, Luis found his return to work smooth, thanks to the understanding nature of his colleagues and his line manager. “It’s good to be back,” he said. “On my first day back, colleagues gave me a great welcome. One of my teammates will now also make use of the 14-weeks paid parental leave, having seen how well it worked for me. It’s nice to know there is flexibility and support for those who want to balance their working week with more time to care for their families.”
There’s research to back up the benefits of flexible working, too. A report by the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) highlighted that increased flexibility with working hours decreases employees’ stress levels, increases their sense of purpose and effectiveness, and even diminishes levels of self-reported absences. And while only 24 per cent of young fathers work a compressed week (working the same amount of hours as a full week, but in fewer days), 79 per cent would like to.
As for Luis, he has been able to find a happy medium between his career and his family. “I still work flexibly and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy working with Shell,” he said. “The company is accommodating and understanding. My line manager is extremely supportive and I still meet my targets at work while also being able to do family activities like pick up my daughter from school or spend a morning at home with my son. I am really happy.”
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