Think HBR

Australian workplaces are inflexible to their own detriment

The World of Work Report undertaken by HR Specialists, Randstad has found that the majority of workers would like to be working remotely 30% of the time. The reality is that Australian employers are mostly unsupportive of these types of arrangements, despite the benefits that a flexible workplace can bring.
In fact Australian employers are the least open to flexible working arrangements of anyone in the Asia Pacific region, with 79% of local workers saying they are unable to work remotely in their current position. This compares to 59% of Chinese workers, 62% of Indian, 64% of Malaysian and 65% of workers in Hong Kong and New Zealand.
While the Federal Government continues to encourage local businesses to improve their flexible working options with initiatives such as National Telework Week, the report shows 40% of employees still rate their current employer’s efforts in creating and adopting flexible work options as average or poor.
The findings also show Australians are craving a more flexible approach to work, with most stating their ideal working arrangement would involve spending 70% of their hours in the office, and 30% working remotely.
Steve Shepherd, Group Director of Randstad, says flexible working options need to become more of a focus for senior management and HR decision-makers in Australia.
“With flexible working arrangements and a good work life blend becoming more important to people, businesses that continue to overlook this could find themselves losing their top talent.” He also says that businesses should be listening to their employees because when they are given the flexibility they crave they really value it and as a result employers can see a boost in engagement, performance, productivity and loyalty.
Most concerning about the slow uptake of flexible workplaces in Australia is that many employers already understand the benefits on their business. 41% believe it boosts employee engagement and satisfaction, and 27% agree it assists in the attraction and retention of top talent.
However while these benefits are acknowledged, management are still concerned about productivity and this is one of the major barriers to a higher adoption of flexible work arrangements.
If business leaders have guidelines and a framework in place to foster virtual teamwork and utilise technologies such as using Skype or Google hangouts to discuss, meet and collaborate, particularly when working on team projects, these apprehensions can be minimised.
Australian businesses also need to manage the wide-ranging expectations of a multi-generational workforce. Workers from each generation have different preferences and motivations, so employers will need to implement policies which are adaptable for a range of groups and individuals.
Shepherd says that “Gen Y and Gen Z will be driven by flexible hours to maintain a work/life balance, Generation X will continue seeking part-time employment and shorter weeks to meet family needs, and Baby Boomers will seek out employers which offer staggered work hours and phased retirement options to maintain work satisfaction and social interaction.”
“In today’s digital and economic age, increased flexibility in the workplace is an inevitable and important aspect of talent management and if Australian businesses wish to retain top talent, improve employee job satisfaction, and succeed in both strong and uncertain economic conditions, adoption of flexible working options must become more of a priority this year and in the future.”