We have talked a lot recently about the impact that the last 2 years has had on recruitment and retention of staff. One of the biggest changes for many employers and employees when COVID hit, was the requirement to go into lockdown and work from home. This has now set new standards, expectations, and ways of working, not only in Australia but worldwide.
A number of studies have shown that flexible working is now one of the top 3 factors that are important to candidates / employees, along with pay and career development opportunities. Therefore, it’s essential that employers address this to either retain their staff or attract new employees.
It is true that some jobs tend to be more suitable to remote working, and certain roles in healthcare or the building industry are not conducive to remote working. However, adaptations of roles and technology have allowed even some aspects of these roles to be done remotely, such as Teachers and Fitness Instructors taking classes online, and Doctors offering telehealth consultations.
What does flexible working really mean?
There are a couple of variants on what flexible working really means, but predominantly it means the employee working outside their standard conditions of employment, such as working hours and/or working location. It is referred to in a number of ways: fully remote working, partially remote working / hybrid model (combination or remote and onsite) or simply, working from home (WFH).
So why do employees want to work flexibly?
There are a few reasons and benefits that employee’s desire these working arrangements. These include:
Flexibility – Ability to do hours that suit them and set their own work/personal schedules. This can be particularity important for individuals who have caring responsibilities or are studying.
Work life balance – Aspects such as not having to travel to work frees up time and the stress of driving in peak hour traffic, finding and paying for parking or using public transport. Also not being in an office means more opportunities to get outside during the day and have more time to enjoy life.
More comfortable working environment – Being able to tailor your environment to your benefit or work preferences, such as playing music, choosing your physical furniture, setting up your desk that looks out to your garden / ocean or having less interruptions.
Cost saving – Not paying for transport or parking, food, or coffee.
What are the benefits for employers to support and encourage this?
Studies have shown that employees are often more productive, with less mistakes, and of a higher quality when working from home. Studies have also shown that employees working remotely take less sick / personal leave.
The employer also spends less on office fit outs and equipment.
Job searching candidates have also commented that they would accept a lower salary to be offered a role with flexibility and the option to work remotely.
What employers should consider
Although working remotely has been requested and welcomed by most employees some people can struggle with feelings of isolation, disengagement, or balancing work with home responsibilities.
As an employer it’s important to put measures in place to regularly engage with staff and support them when working remotely. Open and frequent communication is essential and can include things such as daily check-ins / meetings, arranging opportunities for online social interactions, and being clear on expectations and boundaries.
Overall, as the world of work has and continues to change, along with the expectations of employees, it is important employers look at different ways of working to attract and retain the best talent and stay ahead of their competitors.
Potential Changes to Flexible Working Arrangements
In the upcoming IR changes under the Labor Government, the Fair Work Legislation Amendments (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 was tabled on 27 October 2022 which set out 4 key changes. Although, “eligible” staff can currently request flexible working arrangements, and the employer can refuse based on various reasons, this may change in the future. The Bill proposes strengthening the right to request flexible work, including working from home. We will communicate more around when the Bill becomes law.
How can Essential HR help?
As specialists in human resource management and industrial relations we assist Australian businesses navigate their way through the complexities around employing people.
We deliver HR Partnering Services via a hybrid model. With a powerful combination of technology and expertise, we deliver efficiencies, compliance, pragmatic advice and solutions.
To learn more how we can assist your workplace visit our website at: www.esshr.com.au.