Flexible workplace arrangements are becoming a top priority for businesses and employees. Thanks to technology, we can work just as easily outside the office as we do on location. There are plenty of reasons to implement flexible work arrangements.
Flexible work schedules can help reduce stress levels, increase productivity, boost morale, reduce lateness and absenteeism, reduce employee turnover and help employees achieve a better work-life balance.
It’s also quite clear that flexible work options are becoming a decisive factor in recruitment and retention and the number is only set to grow.
Here at Employment Hero, we have a flexible work policy, and we implement it! Our marketing team makes particular use of flexible work arrangements, and we have seen great results.
I am definitely an advocate for flexible working, but I also know that for a business to successfully implement flexible work policies, there are a few parameters that need to be put in place.
In this blog, we take a deep dive into flexible work. We discuss what it actually is, the laws around it, tips for implementing these new work policies and more!
Are you ready to dive in? Let’s get to it!
What are flexible working arrangements?
Professor Barbara Pocock of the University of South Australia defines work-life balance and flexibility as:
“People having a measure of control over when, where and how they work. It is achieved when an individual’s right to a fulfilled life inside and outside paid work is accepted and respected as the norm to the mutual benefit of the individual, business and society.”
Flexible working is more than remote working and laptops. At its essence, it is the ability to have some control over when, where and how work gets done and that can manifest in many ways from reduced working hours to choosing your own start and finish times.
As Professor Pocock mentions, flexible work arrangement is about improving work-life balance in a way that benefits both employees and employers.
And that’s why, before we delve any further, we will explain why flexible work arrangements it is important in the workplace.
Why are flexible working arrangements important?
There are so many reasons why flexible working is important. For the sake of being succinct, we’ve narrowed it down to a list of three.
1. Employees want more flexible work arrangements
There’s no doubt that flexible arrangements are becoming a top demand for employees.
In an Australian-wide survey we conducted last year, we saw clear indications that it was on the rise.
Our results showed that:
- 45% of employees take flexible work into consideration when weighing up a new job
- 63% employees consider it to be a benefit that most helps maintain physical and mental health
- 59% nominate flexible working as a benefit they’d like to see their company provide, in fact it was the top benefit employees wanted to see in their workplace.
Now you don’t just need to take our word for it, there are plenty of other studies whose research corresponds with ours!
According to the Hays 18/19 financial year salary guide – 73% of Australian workers would like a job offering flexible work practices.
2. Flexible working reduces the gender pay gap
A second reason flexible working arrangements are important is that it helps reduce the gender pay gap. In fact, it is a primary recommendation made in audits and reports across the world in relation to reducing gender inequality in the workplace.
In a study conducted by the Victorian state government, it was seen that it helps reduce the gender pay gap for two main reasons.
- Flexible working offers the opportunity for women to juggle their unpaid work with paid work. Women continue to take on the bulk of unpaid work and care duties and often lose out on higher-paid positions that unnecessarily demand a rigid presence.
- By normalising and valuing flexible work schedules, both men and women are encouraged to take up flexible working. The more men who take up this way of working, the more likely they are to help with unpaid work. It also helps to equalise the pay gap because women have historically been at a loss financially because their personal responsibilities require time off work or part-time work.
3. Flexible work arrangements are good for business!
Believe it or not, flexible working is good for a business. Flexible work practices reduce absenteeism, reduces stress, improve morale, increase employee happiness and retention.
It can also save business money. In a study by the Victorian state government, it was seen that flexible working could save businesses millions of dollars.
What are the different types of flexible work arrangements?
Flexible working is about giving employees power over their work schedules, and that can play out in many ways.
Here is a list of different types of workplace flexibility:
- Part-time work
- Purchased leave
- Unplanned leave
- Parental leave beyond statutory requirements
- Flexible work hours
- Flexible start times
- Compressed working hours/weeks
- Time in lieu
- Flexible career management
- Working from home/telecommuting
On top of these “traditional” offerings, we’ve seen innovative companies like Netflix, Virgin and General Electric offer things like:
- Unlimited vacation time
- Extended paid paternity leave
- Extended paid maternity leave
- Paternity leave
- 4 day work weeks
What does the law have to say about flexible working?
Now, before we discuss how you can implement a flexible working policy, let’s take a quick look at the laws around flexible working in Australia.
Please note, that we’re giving an introductory overview here and strongly encourage you to do further research and discuss specific questions with an expert.
Certain employees covered by the National Employment Standards and modern awards have a right to request flexible work arrangements. This can include reduced hours, part-time work, time-in-lieu and so on.
Before responding to a request from an eligible employee, an employer must first discuss the request with the employee to try to reach an agreement about a change to their working arrangements.
Requests for flexible work arrangements can only be refused on reasonable business grounds. If employers refuse the request, they need to provide the employee with a written response.
Employees rights to request flexible working arrangements in Australia
So which employees have the right to request flexible work?
- Employees who are parents, or have responsibility for the care of a child who is of school age or younger
- Employees who are carers (within the meaning of the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
- Employees with a disability
- Employees who are 55 or older
- Employees who are experiencing violence from a member of their family or the employee provides care or support to a member of their immediate family or household who requires care or support because they are experiencing violence from the member’s family.
As an employer you want to make sure you handle all flexible work requests correctly so if this is the first time you are hearing about these laws, we highly recommend further research and discussion with a professional HR consultant and/or workplace lawyer.
Tips for implementing a flexible work policy
When it comes to implementing a flexible work policy the first thing you want to think about is what works for your business.
Once you determine what types of work will benefit your business (and please your employees) it’s time to implement a policy!
Click here to learn more about implementing a flexible work policy.
A real-life example of a company with successful flexible work initiatives
Now, let’s take a look at an example of what flexible work policies look like in real life. The company we are going to look at is Konica Minolta Australia.
Konica Minolta is openly committed to workplace gender equality, and the company has been the proud recipient of a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (EOCGE) citation.
In an interview with HRD magazine, Dr David Cooke, the chairman and managing director of Konica Minolta Australia, said the company is committed to promoting gender equality in the workplace.
“We do this because it is aligned with our core values as a company, but also because we understand what it means for employees to work for a company that values gender equality in today’s society.”
Konica Minolta implements a range of workplace flexibility policies that promote gender equality (and employee happiness of course!).
Konica Minolta’s flexible working policies include:
- Job sharing
- Flexible hours – 51% of managers work flexible hours
- Remote working – 42% work from home at least one day per fortnight
- Gradual return to work programs
- 12 weeks paid leave offered to primary carers and 10 to secondary carers
- Gendered language removed from parental leave policies, actively encouraging men to take parental leave.
- Formal procedures put in place to achieve pay parity
- Active management of representation of women across the business. If there are less than 40% of women in sector or management role, targets are set to rectify the discrepancy.
Tips for managing remote employees in a flexible workplace
If you’re thinking about implementing a remote working policy, or you already have one in place, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to make sure it runs smoothly.
1. Get the technology right
Technology is great, but only when it works. If you are going to have a flexible workplace then you need to have the tools to make it work. You don’t want to spend the first 15 minutes of every meeting or chat trying to hear each other.
At Employment Hero, we use Google drive. So, all our staff need is an internet connection (and passwords plus security clearance) to access their work files.
All our remote employees also work from laptops so that they can take their tech home (or anywhere, really) to work remotely. We use Meet by Google Hangouts for virtual meetings and Slack for general communication.
We’re in the process of putting video cameras in all our meeting rooms so that it will feel like remote employees are sitting at the table.
Our fortnightly all-hands meeting is streamed, and due to the size of the room and the number of speakers, it took us a few goes to get the camera and microphone right.
We’re happy to say our remote workforce now enjoys a better audiovisual experience when attending large meetings remotely.
2. Communication is key for a flexible workplace
With flexible working conditions, over-communication is absolutely critical to making it work.
At Employment Hero, we have systems and processes in place as a team to ensure we all know what each other is working on and are held accountable for our goals.
First, there’s our marketing Slack channel. Remote workers let the team know via Slack when they are starting and ending their day and when they will be away from their keyboard for an extended period (i.e. AFK lunch, 45 mins).
We also use the team management tool, Asana, to manage our projects and workflows. This means as a team, we’re able to quickly and easily assign tasks to each other and understand what each other is working on from anywhere in the world.
Read more: Tips to stay connected with remote team members
3. Set clear objectives in your flexible workplace
There are so many reasons why you should measure people on objectives rather than output.
At Employment Hero, objectives are critical to our moving forward as a business and are used to set clear expectations of the teams goals.
When measuring the output of remote work, you shouldn’t worry about where your team works from as long as you see progress towards your team objectives. Basically, as long as you’re seeing results, all is good.
Focusing on objectives allows my team to work when and where they are most productive, and it forms a framework for having conversations when things fall behind.
Read more: Setting OKR goals for remote teams
4. Check-ins are sacred
Feeding out of communication and objectives is hugely important when it comes to managing a flexible team. That’s why our weekly marketing WIP and individual 1:1s with the team are sacred times.
When you’re working flexibly, there has to be some non-negotiables, and for us, this is it. Our weekly meetings are a chance for my team to touch base together as a group.
Having direct time with my team during 1:1 meetings allows us to discuss anything that might be unclear and raise any concerns around objectives.
In short, to manage a flexible team it’s important to get your tech in order, determine how you will manage and keep track of your team and set up a meeting cadence that suits your company objectives and team workflow.
Read more: Managers tips to support wellbeing of remote employees
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You should now know enough about flexible working to seriously consider its viability for your business.
Take it a step further and become a remote-first workplace with the help of a global employer of record (EOR) service like Employment Hero. Want to find out more? Get in touch with our business specialists today.
The remote first workplace playbook