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Let’s Talk: How to turn workplace flexibility into a win-win situation

Thanks (but not really) to the pandemic, more and more of us have become aware of the importance of a good work-life balance after decades of office nine-to-fives. And it isn’t just for the workers.

Employers will also benefit from this shift in workplace culture. Employee experience is everything in today’s workplace. That’s because employee flexibility and satisfaction are the driving forces behind so many other brilliant outcomes. 

Because of rapid technological advancements and new working models, today’s workplaces must be more adaptable to the changing landscape. This is the subject of our final issue of the first quarter. 

We asked experts to share their perspectives on how businesses can incorporate employee flexibility to create a win-win situation. 

Let’s talk.

Sam Kothari, Head of Growth ANZ at Airwallex

Sam Kothari, Head of Growth ANZ at Airwallex

“Knocking the rigidity of the 9-5 model on its head has unlocked freedoms for staff. Gone are rigid workday start and finish times as people as employees can manage their day around when they are most productive – a win/win for all.

“To manage flexible workplaces, there needs to be a high level of trust between employees and management. At Airwallex, our return to work policy is built on just that. We have taken an employee-first approach; whether employees prefer to work from home, in the office, or a mixture of the two.

“However, leadership is crucial to success. Throughout the remote working revolution, it’s important to focus on clarity of outcomes, rather than on inputs and hours worked.

‘Management should also look to build connections with remote workers beyond the sphere of work. For example, our team has fortnightly calls where team members share something they’re passionate about that’s not work-related. This helps everyone get to know their colleagues on a personal level, even while we’re remote.”

Mike Prieto, Managing Director ANZ, SolarWinds

Mike Prieto, Managing Director ANZ, SolarWinds

“Ensuring flexibility is a win/win for everyone. While we continue to navigate the ‘new normal’ of hybrid work arrangements, it’s crucial to prioritise supporting your staff, and how and where they work most efficiently.

“When it comes to leveraging workplace technology to enable flexible working, it’s essential to evaluate the changes instituted over the last few years to ensure they’re relevant. Sometimes the people who initiate processes and choose new tools aren’t the ones directly impacted by them.

“While it’s necessary to involve the IT professionals in these decisions, consider the impact on end-users as part of the decision-making process. Allowing staff to give feedback about what works best for them creates a forum for IT professionals to receive and process this information.

“Setting clear guidelines and parameters with realistic and mutually agreed performance targets are fundamental for successful, flexible work arrangements. Remember, flexibility is a two-way street, so once you provide employees with tools for success, sit back and give them the space to perform.”

Danny Lessem, CEO at ELMO Software

Danny Lessem, CEO at ELMO Softwares

“Flexibility is more than the ability to work from home, it’s about understanding how your workers want to work. Flexibility will mean a lot of different things to different employees so it’s important that employers take the time to understand that. For instance, it might mean working altered hours, compressed weeks or in a hybrid manner. 

“Making flexibility a win/win relies on consultation and having the right systems in place to make the most out of the new way of working. 

“This means having structures and systems to make it easy to schedule time in the office for whole-of-team collaboration or to give managers a holistic overview of which teams are for or against time spent in the office.”

Jamie MacLennan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director Asia-Pacific at LifeWorks

Jamie MacLennan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director Asia-Pacific at LifeWorks

“With increased challenges such as the great resignation, businesses must ensure they’re doing everything they can to attract and retain great employees. Offering flexible work such as where, how and when employees want to work, will help organisations stay competitive in the war for talent. The more employees feel valued, respected and listened to, the more productive they’ll be. 

“Creating a safe environment where employees of all levels can speak openly about their requirements and desires, will ultimately create a more inclusive and supportive workplace, leading to greater productivity and decreased turnover. 

“This is not a ‘nice to have – it is a commercial imperative. LifeWorks Mental Health Index reveals that 60 per cent of Australians say flexible work is more important than career progression and 41 per cent say they want full flexibility at work. Businesses that do not recognise the post-COVID workforce has changed, and do not put in place flexible work options, will suffer the consequences.” 

Lindsay Brown, Vice President and General Manager of APJ at GoTo

Lindsay Brown, Vice President and General Manager of APJ at GoTo

“The shift to remote working during the pandemic became an obstacle to overcome for most businesses, however, we now see more employees desiring the flexibility to work from home. Our recent survey in partnership with Pew Research Center found that 78 per cent of workers are still likely to work remotely most of, if not, all of the time. 

“To address this high demand, it is critical that employers not only look at adopting a flexible work model but ensuring the business is enabled with the right tools and the set up to support flexible work.  

“Flexibility is more than just the ability to work remotely. It encompasses the idea of adjustable hours and an agile mindset to accommodate an employee’s personal life. Technology that enables flexible work can assist businesses in successfully operating a working environment that is conducive to driving a winning outcome for both employers and employees. We found that 65 per cent of employees using remote communication tools at least some of the time, was a good substitute for the traditional in-person contact found in the office. 

“Businesses that have a flexible work model are able to connect, manage and support employees’ different behaviours and requirements, allowing everyone to do their best work, however, whenever and wherever they do it best. It creates a win/win for both the employee and the business as it fosters a productive and motivated culture, elevating business success and appealing to employees as well as potential candidates and prospects.”

Rolf Howard, Managing Partner at Owen Hodge Lawyers

Rolf Howard, Managing Partner at Owen Hodge Lawyers

“While many employers view flexibility as an employee perk, the reality is that it is now a major management tool to promote productivity. Employees with flexible work arrangements have more control over their time, more quality time with family and community, better health, less downtime due to stress or injury, less commuting time and greater productivity. 

“Furthermore, in an increasingly tight labour market where competition for talent is fierce, creating a genuinely flexible workplace will enable you to attract and retain the very best employees. 

“To balance the needs of employees and employers, flexibility initiatives should be thoroughly documented in company policies and employment contracts. This may include the permitted number of days to work from home, time in lieu provisions and allowances for flexible start and finish times. This will ensure both parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities and avoid either party taking unfair advantage of the other.” 

Shannon Karaka, Head of Expansion ANZ at Deel

Shannon Karaka, Head of Expansion ANZ at Deel

“Make no bones about it – if you want to continue accessing top talent, flexibility has now become table stakes. Flexible work arrangements over an in-office, traditional job are high in demand among today’s workforce and new applicants. 

“For many, remote work might be the first thing that comes to mind. With the world beginning to open up borders after the pandemic, many employees are looking to spend time with family overseas this year.  Businesses now have the tools to easily support employees and contractors working from anywhere – including managing overseas payroll.

“Flexibility over hours is another key differentiator. For example, many parents value the ability to put their normal amount of hours outside the confines of 9-to-5, allowing them to drop off and collect their kids from school. Other employees want to be able to partake in an activity that the regular 9 to 5 wouldn’t allow. This can create a more loyal relationship between the employer and employee as the work is based on results rather than the number of hours worked. 

“Benefits are also something employees consider when evaluating roles. Employers are definitely upping their game when it comes to this, but it’s important to consider what benefits your employee’s value. On the Deel platform, employees and contractors can choose from a menu board of benefits that they want, according to the budget they have pre-negotiated with their employer. 

“With flexibility now high up on the agenda, business leaders should audit their business to uncover the areas ripe for a ‘flexibility transformation’ and consider their workers’ needs as they do this.”

Peggy de Lange, VP of International Expansion at Fiverr

Peggy de Lange, VP of International Expansion at Fiverr

“A tumultuous couple of years has led many Australians to rethink their career path and reconsider their role in the traditional workforce. As a result, there is an increased demand for jobs that foster autonomy, flexibility and personal satisfaction, prompting a rise in freelancing and becoming your own boss on a long-term basis.

“From a business perspective, however, it has not always been feasible to encourage a high level of flexibility. The in-person meeting has always been cherished, and the traditional 9-5 is seen as the only way to work. Now, job vacancies across the nation are high as a result of skills shortages. It has become clear that flexibility truly is a win/win! 

“Freelancers are leading the way in terms of bringing businesses a high level of value and productivity, as well as increasing their work-life balance.”

Scott Day, CPO at Corel Corporation

Scott Day, CPO at Corel Corporation

“With each generation that enters the workforce, we’ve seen an interesting shift as people come to adopt the philosophy that “work is a part of my life, but work is not the purpose of my life.” And in response to this dynamic, research suggests that over half of the global workforce would consider leaving their jobs if they aren’t provided with flexible working arrangements. 

“A mass labour shortage combined with people’s desire for a better work-life balance has made it vital for businesses to adapt their policies in order to attract and retain talent.

“Savvy employers respond by recognising the benefits of flexible work and empowering staff to maximise their autonomy. Enabling people to choose how and when they work not only facilitates work-life balance, it can also increase engagement. And when employees are engaged, their performance soars.

‘Flexible work isn’t going anywhere. Leaders must create a work environment that honours, and frankly, celebrates this evolution, or risk losing top talent to the competition.”

Charlie Dewitt, managing director ANZSEA at UKG

Charlie Dewitt, managing director ANZSEA at UKG

“The changes in demand and work patterns over the past two years have led to the new future of work where employees now expect greater consideration of their needs. This includes flexibility in the work they do, where they do it, and when. Organisations are now looking for ways to build greater flexibility into the workforce to accommodate these new expectations and to be able to pivot rapidly when required.

‘Organisations that deliver flexible work environments are in the best position to attract and retain the best workers. For example, offering labour pooling whereby employees are not necessarily tied to a role or location but are allocated work based on their skills and availability can foster a positive employee experience and help facilitate a strong work/life balance. 

“Using automated workforce management technology that offers self-service functionality for employees not only improves the employee experience, but it drives further process efficiencies, and ensures that the organisation always has the strongest possible workforce in place.”

Andy Brockhoff, President APAC at Unit4

Andy Brockhoff, President APAC at Unit4

“Over the past two years, businesses have needed to embrace flexibility more than ever to adapt to trends such as hybrid working, digital transformation, and the market impact of COVID. Today, businesses must remain flexible in everything they do – whether it’s a technology that enables agility or the ability to offer flexible work to keep up with employee expectations. 

“With more people working remotely, technology helps businesses remain flexible. Cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, for example, allow employees to easily access information from wherever they are which helps them move faster, become more productive and sidestep disruption. Having the right technology, like ERP, helps businesses be primed for change and react quickly as new needs emerge. 

“Whether it’s human resource management to help businesses restructure quicker, cost-saving measures to make your business more profitable or forecasting to adopt new organisational strategies with minimal disruption, technology enables businesses to remain flexible and keep employees happy.”

Andrew Cornale, Co-Founder and Digital Experience Director at UnDigital

Andrew Cornale, Co-Founder and Digital Experience Director at UnDigital

“Offering a flexible work environment is an easy way to show that you understand and encourage a work/life balance. The win/win is this: they get to enjoy the benefits of a flexible workplace while you get to retain happy, engaged and hardworking employees. So, how can you make it happen?

“Clearly communicate that you offer a flexible working environment and define the boundaries. Flexibility can be enjoyed as long as they meet the expectations of the role. When flexibility takes them away from the role at hand, it becomes a problem.

“Acknowledge that your staff aren’t robots and show them that you understand they’ve got needs outside of work that sometimes fall between the 9-5. You’ll undoubtedly find that this flexibility is appreciated and will be reciprocated if ever you need their help outside of their typical work hours too.

“Maintain open communication; regular chats are key to ensuring all involved parties are happy.”

Emily Roberts, Vice President & General Manager, Global Commercial Services A/NZ at American Express

Emily Roberts, Vice President & General Manager, Global Commercial Services A/NZ at American Express

“Greater flexibility can also mean greater choice, for small businesses and for their customers. This can be as simple as providing your customers with more choice across your product range or being flexible with when and how customers interact with you.

“Small business owners have shown through their navigation of the pandemic how critical flexible capacity really is, and it will remain so as market conditions continue to fluctuate.

“The past two years have also accelerated expectations in relation to digitisation and automation when customers interact with small businesses. Invest in your online customer experience and it will likely pay dividends.

“Personalisation can go a long way. Society has a renewed appreciation of community connection and shopping local, so small business owners should tap into that and personalise their in-store experience.

“Our hope is that as consumers flex their shopping preferences, and businesses evolve their customer experiences, the small business community will thrive again and come out stronger than before. Small business owners can learn more at American Express Business Class.”

Sandra Kelly, People Operations Manager, Go1

Let’s Talk: How to turn workplace flexibility into a win-win situation

“When lockdowns hit, many organisations had no choice but to enable 100 per cent remote work. Over the past two years, we have learned that some people thrive at home, others do better in an office environment, and some prefer a mix. There’s also research showing that people returning to social and professional environments are getting over-stimulated and stressed. People and organisations aren’t the same as they were two years ago and we need to be mindful of that.

“For maximum productivity and engagement, accommodating employees’ needs and preferences as widely as possible makes sense. Organisations should support their employees to set up their workspace at home. Teams need to learn how to build trusting and collaborative relationships with colleagues they might never or rarely meet in person. 

“As always, communication is key to understanding what flexibility means to individuals. Take the time to discuss expectations and preferences to allow managers and organisations to be accommodating. The need for understanding and empathy is paramount to achieve an acceptable balance.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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