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Flexible work: understanding the opportunity

During the course of the last decade, flexible work environments have risen to the top of the agenda for Australian employers as the balancing act between the productivity of their workforce and the environment where this is best achieved becomes increasingly difficult to manage. However, despite acknowledging the opportunity to reduce company overheads and boost employee productivity and satisfaction, the debate surrounding flexible work is not subsiding.

A bill introduced into the Australian parliament earlier this year offers employees the right to forgo penalty rates in exchange for a more flexible, family-oriented work schedule. This announcement is renewing the debate about the importance and practicality of flexible work.

The bill allows workers to trade off entitlements such as penalty rates in turn for more flexible working hours. This raises the question – why should flexibility come at a cost? With constant connectivity now enabling us to get work done, regardless of the location, should the need to forgo pay and other benefits to work flexible hours enter the equation?

While flexible work appears to be at the top of the national agenda, Australia is in fact lagging behind countries like the United Kingdom, which earlier this year introduced new measures granting flexible work arrangements to all those who requested it – it’s time for less talk and more do.

With the proliferation of video conferencing and cloud-based project management tools, Australians have the opportunity to work around life’s schedule rather than have work dictate life. By introducing video conferencing as part of a strategy, SMBs can help staff work-from-home and promote a culture of collaboration with colleagues and clients across Australia.

Unfortunately, the majority of Australian businesses perceive flexible work arrangements as impractical, unprofitable and unproductive. This ultimately restricts the opportunities presented by collaborative technology and obstructs the ability to develop efficient work practices, ultimately denying employees of the potential benefits.

According to a study by renowned think-tank The Australia Institute, no less than 70 per cent of respondents thought the balance between work and life had stayed the same if not gotten worse over the past five years. The national survey also found 71 per cent of Australians believe it’s difficult to achieve work life balance in today’s economy – supporting the popular misconception that implementing a program that facilitates flexible working is too expensive, which with the range of collaborative technology options available is simply not the case.

The freedom to adopt mobile work styles is in high demand across all industry sectors in Australia, and with the consistent development of technologies and tools to make it a reality, everyone should be able to access a flexible work policy without compromise. It’s important for SMBs to tap into the potential of employees who are empowered to work in the way that gets the most out of them – regardless of device, location or time – now is the time to give the power to the people.


About the Author:

Lindsay Brown, regional director APAC, Citrix

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