With Australia’s ageing population and changing labour market, taking on a flexible approach to work is a critical component of your attraction and retention strategy. In a flexible workplace, employers and employees work together to decide on working arrangements such as hours of work, work location and the way work is carried out.
It means thinking creatively about how working lives can be planned to match individual and business needs.
Recently, one of my clients provided the following commentary on her experience embedding flexibility into the workplace as a retention strategy. This is her story.
Essentially, I began looking at flexibility for my team after being provided with flexibility during and after my three maternity leave periods, allowing me to balance school, kids’ sport and work. This was one of the key drivers to remain where I am.
I see the way in which my managers have allowed me to balance work and family as ‘having my cake and eating it too’. Given the anchor point this has on my retention, I figured it was one strategy I could implement for my team that would create a point of difference. I was a little proactive, implementing changes to create the opportunity before being asked by the team.”
In the past 2 years:
- I’ve moved the team from a paper-based office to a paperless office, and from desktops to laptops. All our ICT programs are web-based, which also means we can get real-time access to any of our information as long as we can access the Internet.
- I have a number of mobile Wi-Fi connections for the team to ‘book’, and those who have regular arrangements have a dedicated mobile Wi-Fi. We also utilise phone technology, which means our team can answer their desk phones via their laptops (don’t ask me how it works, I just know it does!).
- I trialled the work from home option and flexible work times with the team for three months on the basis that anyone in the team could request to work from home or alter their start/finish times. It was proposed on a ‘one in, all in’ basis – i.e. if we could all get it to work, we would explore how far we could extend this opportunity.
The trial brought the team closer together, with everyone proactively identifying the challenges of the flexible arrangements and coming up with solutions. Most importantly, it was clear that everyone in the team was equal, and had an equal right to work from home.
Workplace flexibility is often directed at working mums, but only two thirds of my team are parents. Others in the team have used the new arrangements to be at home to work around contractors, drop pets at the vet or fit in a round of twilight lawn bowls in summer. Whatever the reasons, so far the system has not been abused, the team has taken less sick leave, and they have turned down job offers when approached – instead they tell me what the other job didn’t offer when compared to ours. Many are even more productive from home.
So far then changes have been effective, but we do continue to review and ensure it’s still working well. The team are open and honest about what has been challenging. We’ve been together for around three years now, so there is maturity within the team to provide and receive feedback without taking things personally, which I think has been a key aspect to this working.
Whether it would work with a team of newer team members or in roles that aren’t as defined and workload/productivity easily identified, I’m not so sure. I guess I’ve found what works for the team at the moment and the challenge is trying to stay ahead of our competitors to keep my team together.
This is so encouraging to hear and see in action! Employers who provide flexible working arrangements create an environment where employees can be productive while still being able to meet responsibilities outside of work. This increases trust, retention, workload and output.