Business woman sitting in office with laptop looking out of window

Finding balance at work

  • Susan Ferrier, Leadership |

The workplace in 1, 5, or 10 years will look nothing like it looks today. Part of my role is to anticipate what the new world of work will look like, and how organizations can proactively adapt. The exciting news is that the future of work brings new possibilities that didn’t exist for previous generations. There used to be a strong stigma in the workplace around agile working, like working flexible hours or working from home, but organizations are increasingly embracing the fact that our lives don’t fit in a 9-5 box and we all need flexibility: whether it’s to raise children, pursue a passion, care for a family member or to take part-time courses. This flexibility doesn’t just contribute to a happier workforce, but is also an enabler for a more gender-balanced world, challenging the traditional notion of gender roles.

Organizations play a strong role in creating a level playing field when it comes to supporting people to have balanced lives. In a survey presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, nearly three quarters of respondents thought that the female partners in heterosexual couples should be responsible for household duties including cooking, doing laundry, cleaning the house, and buying groceries* – imagine the impact this has on a women’s career trajectory. Most couples now have a dual career partnership, with many working in full or part time roles and this challenges us to reimagine gender dynamics. International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to reflect on how we can #balanceforbetter and what we’re all doing to achieve gender balance in the world around us.

For organizations to support gender balance in the workplace, work flexibility needs to become more mainstream so that people in all roles, regardless of their level or function, can take advantage of flexibility in their work. It is the first step towards eliminating presenteeism, increasing productivity, and enables and encourages a balanced workforce of men and women.*

As a mother of four and the Global Head of People at KPMG, I have experienced first-hand the challenge of getting it right, but the flexibility my role offers has allowed me to make it work. For example, when I’m traveling for work, I’ll block time off in my calendar to connect with my family – whether it is to video call with my children to keep up to date on what’s going on in their worlds or to help out with homework. And when I am home I try and take my youngest son to basketball practice and structure my calls around his game time! It does not always work but I try to #balanceforbetter!

Having a successful career – whatever success means to you – isn’t easy, it requires making difficult choices and setting priorities.** But if organizations become more agile to adapt to our complex lives, it empowers everyone, regardless of their gender, to find a better balance.