Families receive many benefits from flexible working conditions.
Benefits for employees and their families
- Working hours that better suit your employees and their customers.
- Attractive to people with a young family.
- Less stress reduces the need to fight the traffic jams every morning and night.
- Assists employees to better attend to their personal needs, such as attending to domestic or household responsibilities.
- Eases employee’s commuting time, allowing for off-peak travel.
- Allow more flexibility in dropping off and picking up children or, other relatives requiring care.
- Great for those who would rather take time off through the working week and work on weekends and at nights.
- Creates a better working relationship between employer and employees.
- Many health and well-being benefits including less stress, more relaxation.
- Flexible working conditions are adaptable and accommodating.
Benefits for owners, managers and organisations
- More motivated and enthusiastic
- Grateful employee’s families.
- A more efficient and productive organisation.
- No impact on staff entitlements – no change to total hours.
- Attract a more diverse range of workers (younger-parental-older groups).
- Provide the opportunity to extend hours of operation when required.
- Improve scheduling for peak workloads by overlapping employees schedules.
- Provides a low-cost employee benefit which can impact positively on retention.
- Better customer service and increased customer loyalty.
- Improved empowered action orientation and motivation of the team.
- Better able to keep up with the exponential changes taking place.
- People are less stressed and more responsive and productive.
- Increased employee and customer retention.
- Reduced absenteeism and employee turnover.
- Attractiveness to potential employees with modern skills.
- More efficient use of facilities and equipment.
- Save money in terms of office space, travel and improved efficiency.
- Happier and more productive employees.
- Can provide for the most efficient use of workplace facilities or equipment through increased spread of hours in which they are used.
Factors to consider with flexible working conditions
Consideration of the following may assist as a guide when implementing flexible working conditions and arrangements:
- Focus on flexibility. Aim to be flexible. Operational needs may require working hours to be predictable with limited scope to alter work schedules. However, business and employee demands may change, so working hours arrangements need to be flexible enough to adjust as circumstances change. A review of the working arrangements should be regularly undertaken.
- Equal access to flexible working hours. All employees should have access to flexible working arrangements through a transparent, equitable and recording process, unless there are overwhelming reasons to the contrary, such as supervision, essential service delivery and workplace safety.
- Operational demand. Communication with your staff is crucial to ensure necessary work outputs or services are delivered under flexible working hours arrangements. Staff need to have ownership of the decisions and as they are the front line will have contributions to make about customer service issues.
- Performance management. You should appraise staff performance based on their output and required competencies, rather than observation of their working patterns. Flexible working arrangements should be negotiated, consistently and clearly documented and reviewed regularly.
- Adopt a specific policy on working hours. Flexible working hours arrangements affect the operation of the organisation, so clear and specific policies and management support are needed to assist employees and managers to understand and make use of the options.
When employees work flexibly, their level of interaction and communication with other employees may alter. This is something to be aware of as it is important for employees to interact for a variety reasons, including sharing updates on projects, coordinating tasks, and establishing and developing business relationships.
“To make flexibility work, it is not only necessary to change our attitude about who is a good worker and who is not, but we have to train people at all levels to recognise the difference between the number of hours worked and the quality of work produced”. Madeleine Kunin
Ensure work schedules allow for all employees to have common time in the workplace for at least a few hours a week where face to face interactions can occur. Employees who have elected to utilise the availability of working flexible hours must take responsibility to ensure their managers and co-workers are aware of their attendance or non-attendance at work.
Making the necessary changes
Nothing stays the same in this dynamic and increasingly competitive global economy, Preparing for change makes good business sense.
- The first thing to do is to adjust your attitude to a new working environment.
- Understand the dynamics of your workplace, would a virtual workforce be more beneficial.
- Speak to your employees or do some simple surveys to get a good idea of how your business can work better.
- Get to know the way your employees need to work, do they really need to come to the office or workplace every day. Are they people who want to come to a workplace with others, work from home or, work in a mobile capacity.
- Involve your employees in setting agree on goals about improving productivity, using the office facilities, communicating more effectively, improving the enjoyment of working and generally how you want to work.
- Plan for change to transform your workplace to suit your customers. Create a plan for changes in facilities, the way you will interact with customers, process simplification and the technology needed.
- Look at the potential savings to be made and understand the financial benefits.
Adequate planning prior to the introduction of flexible working arrangements is crucial. You should develop specific plans to:
- Communicate and advise employees and customers of any new arrangements.
- Ensure communication is maintained with staff members (i.e. key staff meetings, networking, social opportunities).
- Ensure adequate coverage of sales, work continuity and service delivery.
- Ensure equity in the access to training and promotion opportunities.
- It is important to anticipate challenges and to constructively work through them, with clear strategies and actions.
- Put in place new ways of managing performance and accountability.
Practical tools to assist
The following tools can help you improve communication in the workplace and assist with workflow continuity.
- Employment work schedules. An employee work schedule should include employee working hours and work location. Schedules should be well maintained and accessible by all employees. An employee schedule can assist you in identifying common times when all employees are in the office for staff meetings and social events such as morning teas.
- Employee online calendars. Employees should use their online calendars to communicate their work schedule to their colleagues. This means an employee should give colleagues access to their online calendar.
- Video conferencing. The working environment can be set up will video conferencing whereby everyone feels they are in the same space.
- Planning calendars.A yearly calendar containing all 12 months on one page is an easy and inexpensive tool for planning employees’ holidays, long service leave, or any other extended periods of leave. Display the calendar for everyone to see so employees have a clear picture of who will be away at what times. This should assist employees in planning their own absences and gaining insight into employee coverage.
- ‘Out-of-office’ message. When an employee is away from the office, an out-of-office message should be turned on, outlining when they expect to be back and who can be contacted in the meantime.
- Telephone redirection. Employees should ensure that on their accrued day(s) off or the hours they are not working (if starting late or leaving earlier), arrangements are in place for answering their telephone. Redirection of the telephone through to other staff who have agreed can be considered as an option. Customers have a low tolerance for not being able to speak to a real person.
- Buddy systems. These will enable employees and clients to obtain urgently required information when an employee is away. A buddy system may be developed with people who have a differing start and finish times to ensure coverage of all work areas across all operating hours. A work buddy would have basic knowledge and understanding of the key work areas and projects of their buddy.
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Having flexible working conditions usually improves a person’s action orientation.
The evolution towards more virtual and flexible working conditions should be one of continuous improvement and adapted to the changing business environment.
Business improvement will only come about if the changes involve employees and improved customer engagement and service.
Hours do not diminish when using flexible working arrangements, but action orientation certainly will. Employees should be able to perform all their tasks as per normal, just at different times. However if done well you can look forward to improvements in productivity, profits, growth and sustainability.
An important question is, “what do you do if you don’t introduce flexible working conditions”?