Ball pits, sleeping pods, giant indoor slides have fast become the norm in the male-dominated tech sector, but when it comes down to it how appealing are these things to the average job seeker? If you are called to work long hours and forfeit your home life in order to keep your job, chances are doing so from a fluffy armchair whilst being eyeballed by the office dog would not soften the blow. It’s time for companies go back to basics and put their money into giving people a life outside their work, instead of making their time at work feel like one of the stops on playdays.
The problem with recruiting in tech has been put down to a lack of talent, but there is perhaps another reason why techies are shying away from roles at tech firms and that is the lack of proper thought about the issues that face real adults: parental leave, work-life balance and flexible working. Instead of focusing on fun working conditions, perhaps tech companies could fix a lot of their recruiting problems by scrapping the tree houses and thinking about homelife.
Whenever there is a problem with work-life balance, these industries usually also suffer from a lack of women. Research conducted last year by b2b services company Approved Index shows that start-ups are actually doing worse for female representation at board level than the FTSE 100. Rather than necessarily being due to a gender bias at appointing level, it may also be that women did not want to take up the roles because the tech start-ups could not offer the same work balance as a more established company – it could actually be that top talent is opting out of the tech sector at a certain level of seniority in favour of other sectors.
Amanda Nutall, Director of HR at Approved Index, notes: “Everyone knows that in tech, the employee usually has the pick of the bunch. Talented techies are like gold dust and so you have to really offer a good package to woo them. Instead of trying to make our office like a playground of some sort, we offer real incentives that will impact our employees’ lives – whether they are male or female. This has definitely won us employees over better known tech companies.”
Balancing home life is an issue that affects men as well as women. Recent research conducted by My Family Care and the Women’s Business Council found that 87% of men surveyed would like to take longer parental leave, yet 50% feared that taking Shared Parental Leave would negatively impact on their career. Having to choose between a career and a family has traditionally been viewed as a ‘women’s issue’, but these findings remind us that work-life balance can be a big factor for men too.
By recognising the obstacles that a rigid working structure creates for employees, tech companies can begin flexing their working patterns and benefits packages to create solutions that truly make a difference. Flexible working patterns and enhanced parental leave may not sound the most glamourous of benefits, but they are essential to helping employees balance their work and home lives – offering far more comfort than any fluffy chair.
*Karen Small writes about women in technology, business and start-ups for Approved Index.