Flexible working is now a deal breaker

International Flexible Working Day (22 May) provides a great opportunity to celebrate and showcase the benefits of flexible work for both people and organisations. The day also marks a call to action to tackle 'flexism'.

Flexible working requires flexible mindsets and flexible work styles. It is about people working in ways that allow them to achieve their best and for employers to reap the rewards. Making the most of employees means supporting innovative and diverse work arrangements - from the night owl starting and finishing late, job-sharing and part-time work, to name a few.

Over the past 50 years, there have been significant changes in technology, our family structures, communication, recreation, entertainment and job roles - and this is going to continue to rapidly evolve. But work structures - hours, location, and work practices - have not kept pace. Now is the time for working flexibly to align with the rest of the changes in society.

New research shows flexible working is a deal breaker

New findings suggest that Australian businesses that do not have a flexible workspace policy risk losing out on top talent. Research conducted by leading flexible workspace provider, IWG, shows that 84% of Aussie workers would choose a job which offered flexible working over a job that didn’t, and almost a third (29%) of people value being able to choose their work location over an increase in holiday allowance. In light of these findings it’s unsurprising that 74% of respondents in Australia believe that flexible working has become the new normal. As a result, in the past ten years, 87% of businesses in Australia have introduced a flexible workspace policy, or are planning to adopt one. The findings signal that, when it comes to dictating what an average working day entails, there has been a power shift towards the employee.

However, not all businesses have been able to embrace the concept. 54% of Australian businesses surveyed said that changing the organisational culture is the main barrier to implementing a flexible workspace policy, particularly within businesses that have a long-standing, non-flexible working approach. Nearly half (48%) said that fear of how flexible working may impact the overall company culture is the biggest obstacle.  

Damien Sheehan, Country Head of IWG for Australia said “Last year our Global Workspace Survey talked about reaching a tipping point, but what we are seeing now is that flexible working is considered by many to be the new norm for any business that is serious about productivity, agility and winning the war for top talent. Indeed, half of all our respondents claim to work outside their main office location for at least half of the week.

Australian businesses are facing multiple challenges including ensuring that their business is agile enough to adapt to change. Research shows that businesses that haven’t already considered the financial and strategic benefits of flexible workspace need to do so now. Otherwise, they face being seen as out of touch, both with their competitors and with the demands of the modern workforce on what constitutes a great day at work, which means losing out on the best talent.

Attracting and retaining talent

Findings show that 82% of Australian businesses think that offering flexible working enables them to expand their talent pool. In fact, many (84%) of businesses are adapting to improve talent retention by introducing flexible working. From an employee’s point of view, over one third of Australians said that flexible working is so important, they would prioritise it over having a more prestigious role (38%).

Perhaps this is due to an increasing focus on work/life balance: flexible working is seen to improve this balance by 83% according to respondents. The findings also show that flexible workspace is seen to encourage a more inclusive working environment, with benefits for returning parents, older workers, people suffering from stress or struggling with mental health issues.

Deliveroo Australia currently occupies a Spaces co-working centre in the hub of Melbourne’s CBD for its headquarters. Levi Aron, Country Manager for Deliveroo Australia discusses the reasons behind why the online food delivery company embraces a flexible workplace policy.

"We're seeing a profound change in the world of work. We know that people value flexibility above all else, so to be an employer of choice it's critical that we offer our people a culture and work space that enables this."

Productivity

Flexibility not only makes workers happier and healthier but makes workforces more productive: 88% of Australians businesses surveyed confirmed that productivity has increased in their business because of greater flexibility. What’s more, 60% of those surveyed report that businesses that tailor the work environment to the work function of staff improves productivity. These figures are given greater weight considering the UN states that the global slowdown in productivity is one of the most prominent features of the world economy in recent years.

Agility and uncertainty

In these uncertain times, it’s clear that businesses are prioritising agility and cost efficiencies. 67% of Australian businesses said they are looking to be more agile in 2019. One third of businesses in Australia are looking to expand internationally this year, and 33% respondents revealed that they have chosen flexible working because it accelerates speed to market in new countries. 62% also choose flexible working to help them to scale. Flexible workspace has also been chosen by 24% of businesses to reduce capital and operational expenditure. The same number of respondents have adopted flexible workspace to help manage risks, and to consolidate their portfolio.

No more commuting?  

The findings also show that over one-third Australians see commuting as the worst part of the day (39%) and more than one quarter of respondents believe that it could be obsolete in a decade (2030). Pressure has been mounting as commuters are increasingly disgruntled by their journey to work, and one in five (21%) Australians would say that they are ‘regularly late’ for work due to travel disruptions. More than half (59%) of Aussie workers spend their commute working, and as a result, over a quarter (27%) think that official working hours should include time spent on their journey, as this does not constitute ‘free time’ in their day.

The new normal

For many Australian employers and employees, flexible working is now the norm. One in five people (23%) surveyed state that being able to choose where they work some of the time is most important to them, and for 70% of people, a choice of work environment is a key factor when evaluating new career opportunities. Flexible working is a model that provides employers with the opportunity to increase productivity, attract talent and adapt to changing circumstances, and something that will therefore prove invaluable as we look at uncertain times ahead.


This article was written by Catherine Ngo and was first published on hradvanceprofessional.com.au

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