Friday, May 17, 2013

Are the roadblocks to flexibility really roadblocks?

This week, I delivered another Flexible Work Masterclass to a group of HR and Business Managers at schools around NSW. The message hasn’t changed; organisations know they need to become more flexible but it is the HOW that becomes the stumbling block. How to manage a flexible workplace comes down to knowledge and acceptance that things need to change. Accepting that we need to challenge our views on how we work, think and act in the workplace can be difficult for many people.

Consider the typical roadblocks to creating a more flexible workplace:

  • ‘This job can’t be done flexibly.’ Why? Employees can still work full time and work flexibly.  Consider the duties of the role and what can be done inside/outside of office hours or at work/from home. It is practical and reasonable to refuse a part time (2-3 days) request for a senior level role that requires staff management, travel and other high-level duties. However 4 days per week could possibly work.

  • The mindset of managers. A common perception is that flexibility is just for women with childcare needs. If you think like this, you haven’t surveyed your staff recently to find out what their needs are.

  • There is no consistency when it comes to implementation. It becomes messy if you do not have s standard system/framework to follow when it comes to flexible work requests. If it is not transparent, you will create staff discontent.

  • ‘We don’t have the technology to make it work.’ Really? In the last 10 years, we have seen the introduction of iphones, ipads, email, remote access, webnars, social media applications including skype and more. Imagine what the next 10 years will bring…. I can’t.

On a positive note, there are many workplaces utilising flexible work options to enhance the productivity of their business.  There is part time work, flexible hours, rostering and flex time, compressed working weeks, job sharing, job splitting, working from home, purchasing extra leave,gradual return to work, career break, phased retirement, variable year employment (e.g. work 3 days per week for 9 months and then full time for 3 months when the workload is heavier).

The Federal Government introduced the right to request flexibility back in January 2010 – view to get up to speed. In February this year, Bill Shorten announced that their intention to expand the right to request flexible work arrangements to all workers with caring responsibilities, employees with disabilities, mature-age employees, and workers experiencing family violence. 

Now is the time to embrace the changing needs of our workforce.

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