Alan Claire asks whether workplace culture enables or prevents flexible working?

Flexible working is a term that is becoming more and more frequently used in employment commentary. It has become a cornerstone of some organisation’s EVP (Employee Value Proposition), but what exactly is flexible working and how can it be successfully implemented in organisations?

Under Fair Work Australia guidelines flexible working is a “right” if you meet the criteria. This however, is a very traditional and rigid interpretation of flexible working and is based on the traditional framework of a 38 hour week.

With the growth and increased sophistication of technology, now more than ever organisations are enabled to allow their staff to work flexible hours and/or from remote locations. Telecommuting is here and it is going to stay. This presents a whole range of issues for some industries and organisations. In theory any organisation that is purely office based (i.e with no manufacturing, machine or assembly floor) has the capability to allow their staff to work remotely.

Traditional or outdated management styles don’t allow for flexible working as there appears to be a lack of trust. In a recent workplace survey 42 per cent of managers were concerned about flexible working being abused, 40.9 per cent were concerned about supervision of staff, and 40.6 per cent were concerned about productivity.

So how do you work around these obstacles?

1 Have an outcome focused approach to your business. It doesn’t matter how many hours a person sits at a desk if they achieve the outcomes that the business requires of them!

2 Build Trust. As an employee you need to start from a point of trust, so if you are not achieving your objectives in a “normal” office environment why would you expect your business to think you will do it remotely?

3 Don’t take advantage. Abusing a privilege generally leads to it being removed from everyone so be considerate and respectful of your colleagues and leaders.

4 Leaders / employers need to support flexibility and not allow it begrudgingly. It requires a change in mindset for a business. It is a brave decision to make and needs to be a commitment that is made wholeheartedly.

5 Ensure you have the right systems and technology to support flexible working. Cloud based systems and mobile phones really make working a transportable activity.

Here at Cox Purtell we moved from a strict roster system (our office operated from 7:30am until 6:00pm) to a flexible environment where we now have no “official” start or finish times.

So far we have seen no decrease in productivity; the trust the business has shown in the team has been repaid with a general sense of responsibility across the entire business. Our team can now come and go as they please, attend their favourite gym class, get their washing machine delivered, pick their parents up from the airport, all without worrying about what the business will think. In return everyone knows what is expected of them and we all take responsibility for achieving our agreed outputs.

It is early days with flexible working for us here at Cox Purtell, but the signs are good so watch this space.

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