tranzition executive recruitment

Work-Life Balance through Flexible Work Arrangements – A Win-Win Situation

 

 

As employees return from their Christmas holidays, New Year’s resolutions ringing in their ears, the resolution likely to be ringing the loudest is “this year I will work less and live more!”

 

Fortunately for both employees and employers, the concept of work-life balance is more than just the latest management fad – it is a cultural shift that is gaining momentum and support in workplaces of all shapes, sizes and types.  Increasingly, employers are recognising that it is not so much a case of “can we afford to incorporate flexibility”, as it is of “can we afford not to?”

 

So what does a flexible workplace look like, how does it operate, and how can you create one for your organisation?

 

What is a Flexible Workplace?

 

A flexible workplace is one that actively establishes and promotes policies and practices that give employees a sense of balance between their work/career demands and their out-of-work responsibilities. Organisations with flexible workplaces recognise that their employees are not just ‘workers’, but individuals with families, friends, interests, hobbies, and personal aspirations.

 

Examples of flexible work practices include:

 

  • Flexi-time – a set of core hours around which employees can set their own start and finishing times;
  • Time off in lieu (of paid overtime);
  • Part-time work – either for a set period or on an ongoing basis;
  • Job-sharing – two or more part-time workers sharing a full-time role;
  • Compressed working weeks – working extended hours across a reduced number of working days;
  • Annualised hours – working less hours some weeks and more hours others, but based on a set number of hours per year, to accommodate peaks and troughs in workload and/or out-of-work responsibilities;
  • Term-time work – ability to take paid or unpaid leave during school holidays;
  • Shift work – working shifts other than the standard day shift to accommodate out-of-work responsibilities or interests;
  • Phased retirement – allowing staff to gradually reduce their hours of work as they ease into retirement;
  • Telecommuting/working from home;
  • Parental leave (including maternity, paternity and adoption leave);
  • Carer’s leave – paid or unpaid leave to care for an ill family member;
  • Study leave – paid or unpaid leave to undertake further education;
  • Sabbaticals/career breaks – paid or unpaid leave to pursue out-of-work interests, eg: travel, hobbies or personal development activities.

 

 

What are the Benefits of a Flexible Workplace?

 

There are many ways in which an employee can benefit by participating in a flexible work scheme, including:

 

  • the ability to meet parental or carer responsibilities;
  • time to pursue study, personal interests, sport or hobbies;
  • time to travel or otherwise undertake new and different experiences;
  • the ability to structure hours of work around out-of-work commitments or to more effectively utilise available time (eg: reduce commuting time by travelling outside of peak hours);
  • the ability to structure working hours around the employee’s peak productivity period (eg: in the morning for early risers, in the afternoon or evening for night owls);
  • a sense of being in control of one’s workload and the way it is managed;
  • improved morale, job satisfaction and productivity.

 

The list of potential gains by organisations offering flexible work practices is just as long, and includes both qualitative and quantitative benefits as follows:

 

  • reduced absenteeism;
  • lower staff turnover – and therefore an associated reduction in the cost of recruitment and selection, induction, and training;
  • increased productivity;
  • improved morale;
  • recognition as an employer of choice, resulting in an increased ability to attract and retain talented individuals;
  • the ability to retain skilled and experienced employees who may otherwise leave the organisation to pursue greater flexibility (eg: parents wishing to work part-time while caring for children; individuals wishing to take time off for study or travel; older employees wanting to scale back their hours of work as they approach retirement, etc);
  • the ability to capitalise on flexible working arrangements, eg: extended trading hours may be possible if employees work across a broader span of hours.

 

 

How do you Build a Flexible Workplace?

 

When designing flexible work practices for implementation in your organisation, it’s important to note that it is not a case of ‘one size fits all’.  Before beginning to create a flexible workplace, it is important to consider the size and nature of your business and the number and complexity of flexible work options you wish to introduce.

 

A logical sequence of steps for achieving increased flexibility includes:

 

  • Research and analyse – research the range of flexible work options available; investigate which options are being effectively implemented in organisations of a similar size and type to yours; analyse the nature and scope of your organisation’s needs and how those needs can be met (or exceeded) with the addition of improved flexibility.

 

  • Make a case for greater flexibility – analysing the current situation (staff turnover, absenteeism, poor productivity, low morale, etc) allows you to argue the level of improvement possible, and also gives you a clear starting position against which to benchmark future achievements.

 

  • Consult with employees – don’t assume that you know which flexible work options would be most desirable to your staff; inviting their input ensures your understanding is accurate, and gives them ownership of, and commitment to, the scheme.

 

  • Road-test prior to full-scale implementation – trial your flexible work options with a pilot group (eg: single work unit or team).  This will allow you to discover and iron out any problems before implementing the scheme across the organisation; it should also provide you with a group of employees willing to act as champions for change with their colleagues as the policies and practices are rolled out to the broader group.

 

  • Review – monitor the progress of implementation and measure results (take-up rates, feedback from participants and their managers, improvements against your benchmark data, etc).  This information will confirm the success of your flexible work policies and practices, or highlight areas requiring adjustment.  Over time, the needs of your organisation and its employees may change, and a successful scheme can be adapted to meet those changing needs. 

 

 

Whatever mantra you recite as you and your employees return to work (‘work smarter – not harder!’, ‘work to live – don’t live to work!’), chances are that a healthy dose of work-life balance is what you are truly seeking.  The good news is that such a balance is achievable, and beneficial, for both the individual and the organisation.

 

 

By Trevor Neville, Principal, and Kirsten Ferguson (Human Resource Management Consultant), TranZition Professional and Executive Recruitment, Level 3 Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Email: trevor@tranzition.com.au  Web: www.tranzition.com.au  

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