Balancing whānau and work: what would make it better for you?

Balancing whanau and work: the key insights

  • Intention is more important than policy, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to whanau and work.
  • Technology, from smartphones and wifi to videoconferencing, will support flexible working.
  • Conversations with your staff are key; they will give you the answers to questions.
  • There is a huge richness of experience – both personal and professional – amongst our staff that we should value and welcome in the workplace.
  • Strong leaders, living the values, are critical to the success of policies and culture.


Using technology to support flexibility

When Steven Miratana saw the ridiculous commute times of some of his team members, it felt like a no-brainer to enable them to work from home some days. The Auckland-based SKYCITY Group Talent Acquisition Manager couldn’t have known that he would soon need more flexible working arrangements himself. But when his sister in Hamilton had some health setbacks, Steven stepped in to support with caring for his energetic young nephew.

That has meant a fluid use of working from home, working from the Hamilton office, video conferencing, and even – on occasion – having a three-year-old sitting in on meetings. Key to making this work, Steven explained at Global Women’s July Diversity and Inclusion Meet Up, is the buy-in from his team and supportive leadership.

The importance of leadership

Rachel Barrow, GM of Contact Centres at BNZ, couldn’t agree more. When she had her first son, her manager asked her what she needed to make things work. Had she not been able to have time with her children in those early years, she would have left the company, Rachel says.

Instead, they have kept hold of Rachel, her experience and expertise, have benefitted from Rachel training other staff, and kept the business of clients that Rachel has a great relationship with. Rachel has changed her flexible working relationships over the years, and her managers’ support has been essential.

Daddy’s not ‘babysitting’, he’s parenting

Sam Mathews, Associate Director at Deloitte, is another parent using flexible working arrangements to benefit his family and his business. A happy, content employee is more likely to be productive and stick around, he told the audience.

Aside from wanting to be a present parent, Sam always saw it as unfair that the woman is often the one that takes all the career sacrifice for the family. So he has worked flexibly since his daughter was born, enabling him to spend quality time with her. Time at trampoline parks, the zoo, playgrounds or with grandparents. Each Thursday, Sam’s usual day being the primary caregiver, he takes a photo to make a memory for his daughter of their special time together.

As a man, Sam has encountered people who are uneasy with his working arrangements. It’s hard not to get down by comments, often made in a joking tone, such as ‘Don’t ask Sam to do it, he’s hardly ever in the office!’ and ‘Daddy’s babysitting today’. The more that we balance childcare and career between both parents, the less discrimination there will be against men and women.

It’s about intent over policy

For Annamarie Jamieson, People and Culture Director at Stuff, supporting employees to balance whanau and work is much more about intention than policy. Stuff’s new parental leave policy came into place on 1st July this year, but if an employee gave birth on 30th June, they wouldn’t miss out.

Because there is no one-size-fits-all way of managing whanau and work, Annamarie emphasised the importance of good communication and conversations between employees and their managers. It’s about asking individuals ‘What would make it better for you?’ Only by involving staff in decision-making can organisations ensure that they are truly being inclusive.