Working in a full-time job for your entire career was commonplace 40 years ago in Australia when approximately just one in ten employees worked part time. Times have changed, and the workplace is evolving and ever-changing and one of the latest trends is workplace flexibility.
Across Australia you will see an increasing number of companies acknowledging the importance of flexible work conditions but we are still a way behind other countries like the United States where over 33 per cent of U.S. employees work full-time or part-time from home or another remote location, which is a substantial increase from former years.
I have had so many conversations on this topic and it staggers me that we are still debating whether it is a good idea or not. I come across companies all the time that actively resist the idea and then wonder why they have high staff turnover when most of their competitors have already embraced the idea. There are several misconceptions about flexible working practices such as that it is just for mothers. In fact, flexibility is for all workers for any reason including caring for dependents, personal development, community involvement, lifestyle reasons, to be an active grandparent etc. Evidence shows men, women, older and younger workers want and need flexible work.
Flexibility in where, when and how you work – including remote work – leads to innovation, as well as communication, creativity, productivity and engagement, according to research by a number of leading companies. But of course you can’t simply give employees a laptop and say ‘just get your job done’ without meaningful training on how to strategically use flexibility, technology and workspace options to work smarter.
- Communication & Collaboration – advancements in workplace technology have made it much easier to work effectively, employees no longer need to be shoulder to shoulder 5 days a week.
- Productivity – Recent findings have shown that 60 per cent of flexible workers are reportedly more productive than in traditional working roles. Companies have major concerns related to productivity, which leads them to believe that workers will become slack if they are not closely micro-managed and monitored. The truth is that a vast majority of flex time workers believe they are more productive as well as more engaged.
An interesting point is that many employers struggle to understand that Part-time employees are normally way more productive than their full time counter parts. They generally get a full weeks work done in less days and will often answer their phones and reply to emails on their days off. For an employer this saves on wages as well as office related costs. This is just one of the reasons why I believe flexible working conditions are a win win for both employer and employee. It creates a cheaper, happier, more motivated and often more loyal workforce.
There’s a huge body of research that shows that across all industries, job levels, and job types, flexibility drives financial performance and productivity, is linked to increased revenue, and impacts positively on client service. The secret to flexibility’s success is not picking the right industry, organisation or role – the secret is simply good design and implementation.