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Flexible Work Arrangements – Making it work

Flexible working – one HR term that has the power to spark either fear or joy in the eye of the beholder. It is no secret that flexible working is taking off, with no signs of momentum slowing down in 2020.

What are flexible work arrangements?

Flexible work varies. Ranging anywhere from shifting your work hours to pick up the kids from school, all the way to working from home. Fair Work Australia describes it as 3 examples being hours of work, patterns of work and location of work. Flexible work arrangements bring a plethora of benefits such as creating an inclusive work environment, spikes in creativity and productivity, increased employee satisfaction and better work-life balance for your staff.

There are still a vast majority of employers in the workforce still operating with the stigma that flexible work hours are detrimental to productivity. Some research into management practices has shown a few reasons behind this negative view on flexi work includes lack of trust in their employees, resistance to change from the long standing 9-5 workday and lack of technology and infrastructure to support workers asking for flexible work hours.

It is evident that a lot of the fears around flexible working arrangements can be solved by one simple question – is the work still getting completed to a high-standard? Chances are that employees who take advantage of flexible work and fail to complete work required also perform the same if in a standard 9-5 office environment.

So should everyone accept every request to work from home or leave early? Definitely not.

Flexible work may not work for your business structure – say for example you have customer service staff in a business where customers expect set opening/closing times. If you do not have someone else who can cover their role – letting someone go home an hour earlier than the normal shift may not be possible.

The key message here is that in order to reap the benefits of allowing flexible work arrangements, you need to work out policy’s and principles that work for your business and align with the below legislation.

What are your rights as an employer?

Australian Fair Work explains:

“Employees (other than a casual employee) who have worked with the same employer for at least 12 months can request flexible working arrangements if they:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • have a disability
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

Casual employees

Casual employees can make a request if:

  • they’ve been working for the same employer regularly and systematically for at least 12 months
  • there’s a reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis.

Employers may only decline on reasonable business grounds.

“Reasonable business grounds can include:

  • the requested arrangements are too costly
  • other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
  • it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.”

Top tips on making flexible work arrangements WORK WELL!

  1. Trust

HR professionals know better than most how people are one of the most important components of any business. If you don’t hire the right people for the job, your business will suffer.

So, if you ever find yourself thinking “they cannot work from home, they won’t do any work” or anything along those lines – working from home may not be the problem, your trust or the people you have hired may be.

Building trust in a work environment is a two way streak. Employees to some extent do need to prove themselves as a hardworking, trust-worthy asset to the business. Employers should also create an environment where employees can be open and honest with their request without feeling like they need to make up elaborate stories just to leave early for an appointment or work from home to be there for a contractor.

  1. Setting Guidelines

Moving away from the trust aspect – you may have an entire company of trustworthy, hard working employees who you are confident would be productive at home. This is where you as an employer need to set guidelines and create some structure so you don’t have every staff member thinking they can change up their arrangement every other day for the sake of it.

One idea of a guideline includes:

  • Allow your employees one work from home day per month. Create a system where they can book in a particular day in advance. This simple act keeps employees happy, allows them to plan in advance and ensure your business has proper coverage and all staff can better coordinate schedules and meetings.
  • Ensuring they have a proper work environment at home before accepting.
  • Restricting a certain day of the week to ensure everyone is in the office for a team meeting and collaboration.
  • Utilise a time tracking software to keep track of whether people are actually logging on and doing work when they are in the office at different times as the rest of the employees.
  1. Technology and Infrastructure

This one is simple – to have flexible working arrangements be a successful part of your team culture and employee satisfaction, having the right tools is essential.

If you do not have the right technology that allows for people to access their work by a secure login on their laptop, a tool to communicate via video conference, cloud software etc. then your employees simply would not be productive in a different work environment.

  1. Work Culture

This goes for almost all people practices in a business. From the job description on your seek ad all the way up to the very last day of someones employment with you – make sure you communicate the work culture, policies and expectations.

The flexibility within the workplace should be set from the beginning. For example, allowing some work from home days may attract more talent and options when searching for jobs. Explaining company policy during the onboarding ensure employees know their rights, expectations and do not feel as though they are “scared” to talk to you about work hours.

Communication and aligning your policy with your work culture (or desired work culture) is key.

To find out more about how you can replace administration with engagement during the onboarding process, contact myjoboffer today.