What is workplace flexibility? And why it’s critical you offer it
These days it seems that at least 85 percent of my candidates are asking about flexibility. A fair question when moving through a recruitment process, especially if they are weighing up a number of opportunities. What I have come to realise is that “flexibility” means different things to different people, and merely stating that you offer flexibility may get someone interested, but it doesn’t mean that you are speaking the same language. It is also now a question that comes to the top of a full range of candidates lists of priorities and is no longer just the parent’s that ask.
In candidate short markets, attracting top talent requires being open to offering flexibility. This will put your business on a level playing field with highly sort-after employers, like the Google’s of the world, who have long offered these perks to secure and retain the best people.
The Fair Work Ombudsman describes flexibility in the workplace as employers and employees making arrangements about working conditions that suit them. They suggest this can be formal; a standard flexibility offering that all employees are entitled to. Or individual; specific flexibility negotiated between the employer and a particular individual, with the arrangement tailored to their needs.
What is flexibility?
Keeping in mind that we all have vastly different needs, it is easy to understand how we can accidentally end up misunderstanding one another when we hear the sweet word “flexibility”.
For students, they may want flexibility for study. Parents may want the flexibility to pick up their kids each day, or to take care of them if they are sick. Others want to work from home once per week; simply because this helps to boost their productivity.
Australian’s have long been known for valuing their work-life balance. In fact, according to Business Insider “work/life balance is so important to Australians that they would willingly trade it over money, holidays and development opportunities offered by any prospective or current employer.”
To remain competitive as an employer, it is vital that you understand workplace flexibility, and how to successfully implement it. Not just to keep employees happy but also to boost productivity and overall employee satisfaction across the business.
Company-wide flexibility options
The benefits of a flexible work environment are many, including a significant boost in productivity and job satisfaction. If you’re a company new to flexibility in the workplace, here are a few examples of some flexible arrangement you could consider implementing (that are becoming widely expected):
This option is excellent for companies as it allows you to save on office space that is going unused. Hot desks around the office let staff come to work and choose which desk suits them; it also gives them the flexibility to move throughout the day as they may need a change of environment for different tasks. However, anecdotal reports from people working in companies that do offer hot desking, note that in practice people are creatures of habit and sit at the same desk every day and within their teams, so the benefits of hot desking are still being evaluated.
Today it is extremely common for employers to offer one day per week where employees can work from home or remotely from wherever they like. This helps employees to break up their week and get away from inter-office distractions, which in turn boosts productivity. This escape from the office is also proven to significantly increase love for one’s job.
Individual flexibility options
Flexibility is a valuable perk to offer staff, and it is all the more appreciated when it is tailored specifically to an individual’s needs and a mutually beneficial arrangement is negotiated. Here are some ideas of what may be negotiated on an individual basis:
- Alternate working hours – Parents may wish to start earlier and finish earlier so that they can make school pick ups.
- Remote work commute – Some staff have a long commute to get to work. Thankfully those train journeys can now come with wifi, so some employers may be willing to allow staff to get to the office later, knowing they are working during their commute.
- Work from home perks – Whether it is for parents needing the flexibility to stay home with kids, or for staff who have proven they can work effectively from home (cafe, beach, whatever), giving this option to motivated employees increases loyalty and can allow you to retain staff who may otherwise have had to leave due to changes in their circumstances.