Building More Flexibility Into Your Workplace – Why To And How To

Building More Flexibility Into Your Workplace – Why To And How To

Offering opportunities for flexible work is tipped to be an integral part of the recruitment strategy for organisations moving forward as emerging technologies redefine the unfolding fourth industrial revolution, reshape industries and mainstream new methods of working.

That’s according to the findings of a recent survey by recruiting company Hays who questioned 1253 working professionals and 951 employers about their thoughts on flexible work opportunities.

Of the employers 89 per cent said flexible working options are very important or important when it comes to staff attraction and retention and of the professionals surveyed, 33 per cent said flexible working options were critical to their remaining in employment. A further 63 per cent said they were ‘nice to have’. Just 4 per cent of employees involved in the survey said flexible work was not important to them.

Managing Director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand, Nick Deligiannis, predicts that the number of professionals identifying flexible work as critical to remaining employed is likely to grow as cities become more congested, commute times increase and the proportion of younger workers increases.

“There are many reasons why people may require flexible working options, including living further from CBDs to access affordable housing, balancing ongoing caring responsibilities, ramping back up after parental leave or throttling back from full time work toward retirement.

“The emerging technologies of the fourth industrial revolution have made flexible working arrangements more accessible and transparent, which people are aware of. For this reason, it’s also becoming more important to staff attraction and retention,” he said.

Younger workers see flexible work as a given

Another driver for flexible work is the outlook of Millennials (people born from the early 1980s until the early 1990s) and younger workers. According to Mr Deligiannis, Millennials are pursuing work-life integration rather than work-life balance successfully and are happy for work and life to coexist – provided their employer allows them to utilise technology to work flexibly.

“Younger workers are also more willing to move from one work assignment or contract to another than previous generations and have higher levels of confidence when it comes to sharing and collaborating securely online,” he said.

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey of 2017 found the number of younger people able to work from locations other than their employer’s primary site grew more than 20 per cent when compared to its 2016 findings. In addition, a high 84 per cent of respondents claimed to work in a job offering some degree of flexibility.

Flexibility was also found to have a positive influence on all areas of work for this generation including productivity, employee engagement, being accountable and loyalty.

Flexible work options

When people think about flexible work options, often the first things that come to mind are opportunities to work from home or job share, however there are plenty of other options, which may work better. These include

  • Part-time hours: Working fewer than 40 hours per week. Varies greatly depending on role (might be 5 hours or 30 hours).
  • Half-time hours: Working 20 hours per week (half of a traditional full-time schedule)
  • Flexible scheduling: Workers have some or total control over the hours they work each day and are able to shift their hours depending on work-life responsibilities.
  • Staggered hours: Employees have different start, finish and break times to enable a business to open longer hours than usual.
  • Alternative scheduling: A schedule that is outside the traditional 9-5 in-office schedule
  • Freelance or contract: Working as an independent, self-employed professional for various clients.
  • Phased retirement: Working fewer hours over time until retirement, rather than abruptly shifting from full-time work to retirement. This can take place over a course of months or years.
  • Job sharing: Two people share the responsibilities of one full-time position, each working a certain number of part-time hours.
  • Self-rostering: Employees nominate their preferred shifts, which are incorporated into the roster.
  • Term-time working: This enables working parents to remain on a permanent contract but take paid and/or unpaid leave during school holidays.
  • Telecommuting (working from home, remote work, or virtual work): May work from home occasionally (for example, working from home one or two days each week) or completely (never going to an office).
  • Compressed work week: Working a full-time schedule in fewer than five traditional work days (e.g., working 40 hours Monday-Thursday, with three-day weekends every week)
  • Annual hours: Employees work hours are annualised and while the majority of shifts may be allocated the balance are kept in reserve so staff can be called in at short notice if required.

Other strategies include offering employees the opportunity to work additional hours and bank the time for use at a later date and enabling staff to purchase leave.

The key is to give employees more autonomy and control over their work week to enable them to better manage the other priorities in their life. Given employees’ unique life circumstances, offering a range of options for flexible work opportunities supported by effective policies to ensure their operation, is the best way to reap the ongoing benefits of flexible work.