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Approaching Flexibility in the Workplace

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Workplace flexibility. This is a conversation that’s been on the agenda for employers over the last decade and more, but only recently have we seen more organisations ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to policy. From the conversations I’m having with HR teams on a daily basis, a common theme I’m hearing is that flexibility is becoming an integral part of the onboarding process, with policies and processes in place to support new and existing staff (and hiring managers) through the different changes involved.  

For me personally (having a family of four kids), work flexibility is paramount to my success – not just professionally but as a parent too. There are various factors that are critical here; I work reduced hours, I have the flexibility to structure my week to fit around the life admin that crops up from time to time and I also work remotely one day a week. Beyond Recruitment has been so accommodating every step of the way, which is something that I am very thankful for! However, workplace flexibility isn’t just about working parents.

What Flexibility Actually Means?

When we talk about “flexibility”, what do we mean exactly? The word often prompts concerns from employers, who fear that it’s purely about remote working. However, in reality, flexibility means different things to different people and remote working is just one factor to consider among a range of flexibility options, including:

  • Flexibility on start/finish times
  • The freedom to attend children’s school events
  • The ability to go to the gym during the day
  • An opportunity to fit study and professional development around work hours
  • Working nine-day fortnights
  • Working four-day weeks (32 hours)
  • Remote work when a child is unwell

People don’t necessarily want to replace the time they have in the office, but rather, re-order it in a way that works for them. What’s clear is that if we don’t work smarter and make ourselves an attractive place to work, people will look elsewhere. Let’s not forget that younger generations have also started to question why we – as a society – are still focused on the 9-5 grind, when technology is has made it so much easier to adapt.

The Importance of Communication

From a manager’s point of view, two key questions tend to surface in regard to the viability of flexible working: is the arrangement working for us (the organisation) and is it working for the staff? My best piece of advice to navigate this is to keep communication lines open at all times – you’ll soon figure out whether it’s working or not! This can be done through regular check-in meetings to discuss how it’s working, whether the tech is functioning the way it should, and any issues/challenges that are affecting productivity. I met a client recently, who includes the ‘flexibility’ conversation in all their bi-annual performance reviews as well – the perfect environment to discuss how employee work/life balance can be supported further.

It’s not just communication with employees that’s important, though. Working alongside a broad range of organisations here in Wellington, what I’ve found is a lot of HR teams who have flexible working policies in place, often find themselves restricted by hiring managers who aren’t onboard or do not completely understand it in practice. This is where strong internal communication is key to ‘walking the walk’. By making sure hiring managers are onboard with new flexibility policies, what it means for the organisation and how important it is, they’ll be more inclined to promote flexible working – both to potential hires, and existing staff.  

Closing Thoughts

As flexibility becomes an increasingly key factor on employees’ wishlists, New Zealand organisations must continue adapting to the changing needs of their workforce to remain an employer of choice. From the conversations I’m having, it’s clear that many have already begun implementing and championing flexibility policies of all shapes and forms – which can only be a good thing!

How does your organisation approach flexibility at work? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.