The Lowdown On Flexible Working

In this age of being a mere tap or click away from our jobs, more and more employees are seeking flexible working arrangements. In Australia, 40% of job-seekers wouldn’t even go for a role if flexibility wasn’t on offer. The same study also reported 88 per cent of professionals are more likely to consider a position that allows flexible working.

Despite this, not enough Australian businesses offer this sought-after arrangement, with only 48% of non-public sector companies having a formal flexible working policy. In this article we answer some common questions about flexible working.

What is flexible working and should I implement it?

Defined broadly, it allows employees a measure of control over when, where and how they work, including working part-time, working from home, setting their hours and taking additional leave. It’s also worth noting that the Fair Work Ombudsman provides employees with the legal right to request flexible working arrangements, so it makes good business sense to have a policy in place.

What’s in it for my business?

Apart from being equipped to fulfil legal obligations to eligible staff, there are many benefits to offering flexible working arrangements. Here are four:

  • Attract and retain talent: The war on talent requires companies to provide more to attract the very best. At Telstra, offering flexibility for all their roles meant a nearly 3% rise in the number of employees. ‘All-roles flex’ also made Telstra the employer of choice for women, with more women joining the company than leaving.

  • Improve productivity: In the UK, a study found 89% of respondents reported flexibility as a motivator for increased productivity. Meanwhile, here at home, HR directors have seen an increase of 60% in productivity among flexible workers.

  • Increase staff engagement: “Loyalty can no longer be obtained by the paycheck,” said the father of modern management thinking, Peter Drucker. Indeed, a study of more than 200 companies in the US found that among employees who reported work-life balance through flexibility, 45% said they were highly committed compared to those having no work-life balance who conversely described themselves as not highly committed to the work. These numbers are supported by sentiments from business owners right here. Small businesses now recognise that a compassionate working environment breeds loyal workers.

  • Reduce costs: Having more part-time or remote workers allows you to save on the costs of running office spaces. The use of communal desks and computers means you can potentially increase headcount without the need for additional room. By giving your employees more reason to stick around, you save on the costly recruitment exercise. It’s estimated that it costs 150% of an employee’s salary to advertise, train and cover for manager’s time spent when hiring new candidates—that doesn’t even include the new hire’s pay!

 

"Far from merely being a ‘nice to have’, our changing world demands that employers make flexible work arrangements"

What are the pitfalls?

Strong implementation and a change management process is needed when switching to a flexible working arrangement, and without regular communication your remote workers may feel left out.

Which companies have had success with flexibility?

Large companies such as Dell have reaped the rewards of flexibility through improved productivity, sustainability and hiring the best. Closer to home, PwC and Telstra both introduced flexibility for all employees and attributed an enhanced organisational culture to the success of this program. Meanwhile, in the UK, Vodafone offered flexibility to cope with a talent shortage. They attracted top-class lawyers through work from home arrangements and the option to hot-desk at any of the company’s various offices in the UK.

Far from merely being a ‘nice to have’, our changing world demands that employers make flexible work arrangements a business must-have.

Not only will it lead to happier, more productive employees, it’ll also save you big bucks and bring better business performance.