Pyrmont, Australia: Symmetra
Area of focus: 
Flexible Working
Unconscious Bias

This white paper prepared by a business consultancy examines the unconscious biases held by business leaders towards employees who adopt flexible working arrangements. Flexible work is highly desired, and a driver of employees' selection of employers, but uptake of it is consistently low. Research results are presented which demonstrate managers' attitudes about full time and flexible-working staff as they relate to a range of leadership dimensions, revealing that in most cases full time workers are seen as more committed, ambitious and higher performing.

The paper discusses and rejects a series of myths relating to flexible workers, with reference to empirical data from recent studies; discussions of the heuristics underlying such biases, and of recent legal decisions relating to discrimination against flexible workers are also provided. The authors argue that ostensible organisational support of flexible arrangements do not necessarily challenge underlying assumptions embedded within the corporate culture, as reinforced by leaders' mind-sets. In their conclusion, the authors call on leaders to identify and acknowledge their own biases, and those of others within their organisation, and to take systematic steps to counteract them