The rise of the flexible workplace How digital is changing how we do business

Gone are the days of working nine-to-five in the same office with the same employees, year-on-year. Technology has transformed the way we do business. Laptops and smartphones deliver us a virtual office, allowing you and your employees to work from anywhere at any time. It is no wonder that having flexibility regarding where people work and the times that they work are the two biggest demands from employees.

According to the 2017 ManpowerGroup ‘Work, For Me’ report, one-fifth of Australian employees, of all ages want flexible working arrangements. If your business isn’t offering flexible work options, chances are you may be missing out on talent.

Small business owners need to consider the changing work environment and determine how to balance flexibility with building a strong workplace culture and ensure the system isn’t being abused.

Of course, not all workplaces will be able to accommodate the full range of demands of today’s employees.  What works for a creative agency may not work for a retailer or a professional service. However, developing a defining a model where workplace flexibility can come to the fore, may help your business attract, develop and keep top talent.

Sales assistants and support staff within the retail sector often have access to flexible work hours. However, when it comes to people in management positions, flexibility can be challenging as managers usually work long hours and their job role may provide little room for flexible working arrangements. So how can employers outside the retail sector manage to offer the flexibility that employees crave?

One possibility could be redesigning manager roles. This may involve creating part time or job-sharing roles which may offer more flexibility. This ticks the boxes for employees to meet their career progression goals while still offering flexible hours.

Workplace flexibility is also essential for any business keen to address gender equity and workplace equality. In ManpowerGroup’s ‘7 Steps to Conscious Inclusion’ report, women believe that to achieve a balance between work and home, flexible location, flexible hours and a focus on performance are essential. Increasingly men are also signing up for flexible work options.

Offering ‘Term-time hours’, where parents work during only the school term weeks, may enable your business to benefit from the expertise of stay at home mothers and fathers who have children in school.

Many of the barriers to offering workplace flexibility are perceived rather than based on reality. Often employers are concerned that by offering flexibility they will see a drop in productivity. However, statistics prove the contrary. The Victorian Government’s Flexible Work, Good for Business report says that workplaces that offer flexibility have happier workers, are more productive and have less job stress. Is it any wonder that the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 41 per cent of the nation’s workplaces now offer flexible start and finish times?

So, what does this mean for your business? If you still live in a world where attendance and presenteeism rule the roost, it’s time to change your attitudes. Imagine instead a workplace where the success of your employees is based on performance and outcomes rather than time spent in store or chained to a desk.

That means communicating with staff on what your expectations are and that the consequences of lack of performance is lack of flexibility.

Don’t stigmatise flexibility, celebrate it and your business will reap the benefits.

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