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What workplace flexibility means today and how to get the balance right
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What workplace flexibility means today and how to get the balance right

Key points

  • The pandemic supercharged flexibility in the workplace, so what now? People expect more flexibility from workplaces today, and companies that don’t have a formalised flexible workplace policy could miss out on attracting and retaining top talent.
  • Companies should consider the flexible work solutions they can implement to address their people’s needs.

While many companies offered the flexibility to work from home before 2020, the last few years put that flexibility to the test. Almost overnight, lockdowns and restrictions changed how businesses had to operate and how people worked, and technology enabled productivity to continue. As companies now transition into a more stable operating environment (although economic headwinds continue to provide significant challenges) it raises the question of what workplace flexibility means to companies and employees today.

People proved they could be productive at home, so why are some companies asking that employees spend a set number of days in the office each week? Of course, there are arguments to be made from both sides. Still, the most important factor in workplace flexibility now is understanding how to make it work for your company, your people and as part of your talent attraction strategy.

Why is flexible working important?

Pitcher Partners Business Radar 2022 found that 46% of businesses with increased staff turnover and staff shortages were unable to expand, and almost half of respondents (49%) find it challenging to attract and retain talent. Similarly, a recent Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) study found that 78% of people would not work for an employer without a formalised flexible work policy, so it’s critical to get right, especially in a tight labour market. While many people may assume that ‘flexible working’ means ‘working from home’, there are other, more specific, opportunities that companies can and should include in their flexible working policies. In short, establishing a clear framework for a flexible working policy can help your company attract and retain top talent.

How can companies embrace flexible working?

Flexibility looks different for each person and business. It depends on various factors, including the industry in which you operate, your employee’s and customer’s needs, the technology available, and broader workforce trends. Some potential flexible work solutions you may consider include:

  • A compressed work week: Some people may be more productive if they compress their work week. For example, working a full-time role over four days could motivate someone to finish their work over this time as they have commitments outside work on the remaining three days of the week. A compressed work week has also been shown to increase productivity, provide greater flexibility to employees, improve employee wellbeing and promote a better work life balance. It can also be a lever for small to medium businesses to compete with larger corporations for top talent.
  • Flexible start and finish times: Challenging the typical start and finish times for a workday can allow for added flexibility. For example, people who live a long distance from the office may prefer to start and finish their work day outside peak travel times. Similarly, a part time employee who works 2 days a week could set up their work hours as 5 hours a day over 3 days to accommodate school hours and caring responsibilities.
  • Job sharing: If there are roles that two people, each working part-time, can fill, consider highlighting this in job advertisements and working with current employees to find solutions if they are asking for this kind of flexibility.
  • Anchor days: For companies embracing a hybrid work approach, decide what day/s the whole team will agree to be in the office.

Like getting buy-in to create a strong employee value proposition, collecting feedback from across the company will ensure you implement flexible working solutions that address your people’s needs. No matter what combination of flexible working solutions your business provides, it needs to meet the needs of your people and customers. And it should shift the way your business measures productivity too. Instead of focusing on seeing employees in the office from 9am to 5pm, measure output.

Create an effective flexible working policy today to address people’s dynamic needs

Flexible working is no longer a ’nice to have‘ when attracting and retaining talent. It provides an opportunity to think about how your business can respond to your people’s and the labour market’s flexibility needs, and it requires an ongoing commitment to gathering regular feedback. Further, people are looking to structure their work around life, whether it’s making time for regular exercising and sporting commitments or the side hustle that’s taking shape outside working hours. Understanding the evolving needs of people and taking steps to genuinely commit to a flexible workplace policy will set the foundations to demonstrate a genuine commitment to flexible work to your people, potential employees and the broader market.

Contact one of our experts below if you want to engage with your people to create an effective flexible working policy.

 

This content is general commentary only and does not constitute advice. Before making any decision or taking any action in relation to the content, you should consult your professional advisor. To the maximum extent permitted by law, neither Pitcher Partners or its affiliated entities, nor any of our employees will be liable for any loss, damage, liability or claim whatsoever suffered or incurred arising directly or indirectly out of the use or reliance on the material contained in this content. Pitcher Partners is an association of independent firms. Pitcher Partners is a member of the global network of Baker Tilly International Limited, the members of which are separate and independent legal entities. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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