Flexible Working is a Win-Win
23 June 2017 at 5:52 pm
As many as four in 10 Australians said they would leave a job if they were not offered the flexibility they needed, according to a new survey which revealed Australians are “still too inflexible with flexibility”.
The national survey, Flexible Work: What’s Working and What’s Not?, aimed to identify the barriers, issues, myths and opportunities surrounding flexible work from the perspective of both employees and employers.
The report was released by Career Inside Track on Wednesday to coincide with the inaugural National Flexible Working Day, supported by FlexCareers, The Parenthood and Women’s Agenda.
According to Vanessa Vanderhoek, who founded the day, the report shows the potential for flexible working in Australia and the opportunities that employees and employers can gain from this way of working.
“The change is real. The demand for more modern approaches to workforce flexibility is here with four in 10 people saying they will leave a job if they’re not offered the flexibility they need. This is a big cost to business and one they cannot afford to ignore,” Vanderhoek said.
“The findings from the survey have been distilled into this report, to drive a social change initiative about the win-win benefits of modern approaches to flexible working for both business and employees.”
According to the survey, Australian workplaces are still not embracing flexibility which is giving rise to “flexism” and preventing businesses from realising their full potential.
While more than 80 percent of respondents embraced some form of flexibility in their jobs, less than 40 per cent had formal flexible work practices in place.
Other findings from the survey included that work flexibility was the most important influence on career choices at 66 per cent, followed by passion, work environment, remuneration and career progression; and 25 per cent of people had had a request for flexible working rejected.
However the report showed that the demand for flexible working had “well and truly arrived” and was not the “way of the future” but was “the here and the now”.
Vanderhoek told Pro Bono News many organisations understood the value of flexible work, but struggled to implement it.
“Last week my phone didn’t stop ringing from companies saying: ‘We get it but it is hard. It is change. It takes a change in our culture and our mindset and investment in how we actually manage our workload, but we know we have to do it because work is changing, our customers demand more and they’re demanding different things’,” she said.
“You don’t go to the bank anymore nine to four, it is 24/7. So I think some of the organisations are really leading the way, and there are some, which in some regards are being forced by us, as consumers, demanding more.”
Vanderhoek said the first step for workplaces in embracing flexibility was to recognise where on the scale they were and then work through what the expectations, challenges and boundaries were.
“I would say for companies, understand what your current state is, be clear on where you want to get to, in a year, three years time, but also 10 years down the track. And then work through,” she said.
“Have you got a culture that is going to embrace this change? If not, you have got to work through what are some of the initiatives. [There is a] great one that Pepsi has adopted called Leaders Leaving Loudly, they identified that people in senior roles couldn’t work flexibly and they said: ‘You know what, we’re not sneaking off to go to meetings we’re actually going to pick up our kids’. And because they now leave at 2.30 going ‘I’m leaving, I’m going to pick up my children’, it has become normal, which is awesome.”
Ambassadors for Flexible Working Day included journalists Tracey Spicer and Angela Priestley, sporting champions Kim Brennan and Tom Faulkner, and chief executives and senior leaders from Diversity Council of Australia, GM Holden, Medibank, FlexCareers and other leading companies.
Vanderhoek said the aim of day was to start the conversation, under the theme Flexibility at Work Benefits Everyone, in a bid to increase awareness of the benefits of flexible work and to encourage people, managers and staff alike, to implement flexibility in their workplaces.
“It has been a huge success and I think it is really because there is a need for it,” she said.
“What we have really done today is raise the discussion about flexible work, that it is not just about part-time, and working mums. That modern workplaces, to really have a strategic edge in the future, they need to have a look to see how it can actually be a win-win for them and their business.
“We’re not saying that everybody needs to turn their workday on its head. If you were to come in an hour later one day a week because you want to go to the gym or go to your child’s reading group, versus actually you would be more productive to work earlier or later or five days in fours days. We’re wanting people to have the space today to have a discussion with their employer but also with themselves and at home with their family to say: ‘Life is chaotic, there is no such thing as balance, how can we use work and our lives to get what we want’.
“So make a change today so in a year from today you’ll be happy you started. And it will be a different discussion hopefully next year.”