Employees want flexibility – key to workforce attraction and retention

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It’s no longer just working parents and care givers who are looking for flexibility.  New research suggests that 70% of Australians want more flexible working conditions but we are too afraid to ask for them.  Fear of losing a promotion and thinking flexible arrangements aren’t possible, often stops workers from even asking.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working means employees have options available, rather than standardised conditions.  Flexibility can include optional start and finish times, choosing to work from home, and job sharing.Coworking_Space_in_Berlin

The Happiness Institute’s Dr Timothy Sharp believes employers can gain a lot from offering flexible working conditions.

“When people are healthy, have a good wellbeing, and have a life outside of the office, they tend to work better and be more productive.”

If people are still able to work just as productively from home, or where they are happiest, Sharp suggests why not?

“My belief is employers should focus on results, not the number of hours spent in the office or how many bums are on seats.”

Increased stress, distractions, less productivity

In today’s fast-paced and mobile world, employees are struggling to balance their work and private life.  They’re stressed, distracted and less productive.  They call in sick and sit at a computer for eight hours straight… it’s not exactly ideal.

The affect of overload and burnout cost companies. Only 35% of full-time workers are fully engaged.  This means more companies are a lot less profitable than they could be.

Work/life balance: The key to staff retention and attraction

Work/life balance is the key to attracting staff and minimising retention, according to the Ranstad Award Employer branding research study.

Some companies are choosing to manage their staff, not by clocking their work hours, but instead by coordinating by standard outputs and values. Employers leave their workers to complete their tasks in whatever way suits them… with underlying goals and values driving the work.

This approach works.  It’s not that millennials don’t want to work – they just want to decide on their own work/life balance.  Technology frees us to be productive from anywhere.

It’s time to rethink the 9-5

When workers have control over their own schedules, it results in reduced levels of stress, psychological distress, burnout, and higher job satisfaction.

The current 9-5 ritual is organised for a workforce of the mid-1950s when white-collar and blue-collar men had wives at home.  It’s just not possible to do it all without burning out or getting sick.

For some, this means getting into the office at 11.00am after taking the kids to school or going to the gym.  Others leave in the middle of the day for a doctor’s appointment. Schedules, like your employees, will vary.  Workers can do what they want as long as they finished their work.

In practice, this requires a higher level of trust.  It isn’t about micromanaging staff time.  To succeed, and to get the right levels of performance out of your staff, it’s a process.  Total flexibility to get the best out of technologies available, and trust to empower your flexible workers.

If you need help trialling flexible working conditions in your own company, talk to Wendy Perry, via wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

April 2016

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