What does it really mean to have a flexible workplace?

Last year, an event called Male Champions of Change raised some interesting insights into the pressures facing senior executives from organisations in Australia, and the some of the solutions they are proposing to address these.

The core debate has been about the importance of getting more women into business and the ways in which companies can help promote and achieve this.

One comment that stood out was from Telstra’s CEO, David Thodey, who has pledged that every job next year within Telstra will be ‘flexible’ to attract and retain more women and improve conditions for those balancing a work life with additional pressures such as being a primary carer. But should flexible work be reserved for specific work demographics? Do we need more clarification on what the term ‘flexible’ really means for employees as a whole and are Australian businesses maximising the opportunity it presents?

An organisation which has recently adapted a truly ‘flexible’ work environment is property company Jones Lang Lesalle (JLL). JLL has implemented an activity-based work place across multiple office sites in Australia. Andrew Clowes, JLL’s Head of IT in Australia, states that its aim with its WorkSmart implementation was to provide a flexible working environment that would be attractive to staff and yet provide a significantly higher level of functionality.

Flexibility means being open to modification or adaptation; but the definition and rules for flexible work vary widely across organisations. For example, flexible work could be measured by the number of hours you work per week, whether you are full time/part time or the time of day when you work.

Every organisation is different and flexible work options should always meet your business’ needs and suit your own workforce. The term ‘flexible working’ also often raises the home vs. office debate with regards to the location where you get work done productively. However the truth is that work is no longer a place you go but just something you do.

The key to mobile working is identifying what is the most productive environment for working or holding meetings, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Instead, it is imperative to focus on the tools and processes that are needed to enable employees to collaborate and work together from wherever the business requires them to be; be it the office, the home or whilst travelling.

Flexible work environments won’t yield the best results without a culture and environment that supports and embraces flexible work. Like David Thodey, company leaders must explicitly endorse flexible working, lead by example and set clear company directions. This top down approach, married with the consumer-driven, grass roots trends we see from our employees, will enable Australian businesses to realise the rewards that flexible working promises.

About the Author

Lindsay Brown, Regional Director, APAC Citrix SaaS

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