Think flexible working will hurt your bottom line? A recent study found flexible workers were more, not less productive, than their peers. So how can you make it work in your workplace?
Flexibility is no longer a nice to have, it’s the law. But, more than that, it actually helps enable more engaged, more productive workers who can help you achieve your business goals. So how do you build the benefits of flexible working into your workplace? Read on to find out.
The evolution of flexible working
There was a time when flexible working was thought to be the sole domain of the new mother returning to work after maternity leave. Those days are long behind us. The Fair Work Act 2009 gives employees the right to request flexible working arrangements on a number of grounds, including:
Many Awards and enterprise agreements also provide for flexible work for employees and businesses they cover, so you’ll need to take these into account too.
But beyond the strict legal requirements, there are loads of benefits to both employers and employees when businesses are more flexible about how people can work.
Why on earth would any employer disrupt their business in that way voluntarily?
Why flexibility? The economic benefits of flexible working
It’s true that a lot of employers struggle to come to terms with how on earth they can run their business with a flexible workforce. It’s also true that flexibility works better in some work environments than in others. However, our experience shows that it can and does work in most instances.
And we’re not alone in this belief. In fact, a recent study on flexible working in a Fortune 500 company found that flexible workers achieved more, were sick less often, worked longer hours and were much happier in their roles than their peers.
After all, not every employee who’s given the chance to work flexibly will opt for it. But for those who do, it can be the difference between having a highly engaged and productive worker and one just going through the motions.
Long-term vs short-term flexible work
You should also remember that a lot of flexible working arrangements are only temporary, supporting an employee to work through a short-term issue rather than being a long-term fix. There are generally two types of flexible working arrangement:
Generally, we recommend that you keep the number of staff working flexibly to no more than 20 percent at any time. If you don’t, it may be hard to encourage the kind of shared purpose that comes from having a centralised workplace.
How to introduce flexible working arrangements
If you’re wondering specifically how you can take advantage of flexible working, here’s some of the techniques we’re seeing businesses use to good effect:
We’re seeing a lot of businesses we work with introducing the concept of ‘all roles flex’. That doesn’t mean that every role in the business is necessarily seen as flexible, but that every employee has the option to request a flexible working arrangement, and that the way in which each role flexes might be different.
The key: being flexible yourself
Finally, it’s worth remembering that, when it comes to flexible working, there are no hard and fast rules. What works for your workplace – and for individual roles within your workplace – will depend on your own operational requirements, as well as the nature of your workforce and the work you do.
That said, we’d encourage you to challenge yourself. The next time an employee asks for a flexible working arrangement, don’t immediately say no. Instead, think about how you can make it work. The result could be a happier employee, better productivity and a boost to your bottom line.
If you’d like to know more about how to increase productivity by building a flexible working program into your workplace, get in touch.
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