Why it’s Time to Permanently Embrace Flexible Work Arrangements in 2021
COVID-19 has changed the playing field forever with businesses now actively seeking options to reduce office space costs by allowing employees to work remotely. It was a trial by fire for many businesses during COVID, however whilst most did not experience a reduction in over productivity, some were left reacting to the need for updated policies and processes to ensure they remained compliant with their legal obligations for employees.
Even before COVID the theme over the past years within the modern workforce was that people were looking for more flexibility in the way they work. To be an employer of choice it is in your best interest to have strategies in place to accommodate this where possible. Work life balance is becoming a higher priority for many people, and the desire for more flexibility at work can be driven by many reasons. These may include family commitments, study, avoiding peak commute times, and transition to retirement to name a few.
The importance for access to flexible work arrangements is also acknowledged in workplace legislation. The Fair Work Act 2009 provides employees in the national workplace relations system with a legal right to request flexible working arrangements. Eligibility criteria and guidelines around employees making such requests is available on the Fair Work Ombudsman website. All employers who receive a request must provide a written response within 21 days which outlines whether the request is approved or rejected. It’s important to know employers can only reject a request on reasonable business grounds.
There are different options for flexible work arrangements that employees may request to assist with their circumstances. This could be changes to their hours of work, or patterns of work, or a request to change the location of where they work, such as working from home. It’s important to understand the benefits that providing flexible working arrangements could bring to your workplace, instead of purely focusing on how the business could be negatively impacted. Employers that do support and offer flexible work arrangements are more likely to attract and retain employees. It can also have a positive impact on the organisations brand, as well as reduce costs associated with office space if employees are given the option to work remotely. Other benefits include greater job satisfaction and higher productivity.
The AHRI 2020 Turnover and Retention Research Report states that flexible work arrangements are included in the top two strategies organisations have in place to encourage employee retention. Out of the members surveyed for the report, 65.5% of responses identified that providing flexible work arrangements was a strategy that organisations have in place to encourage employee retention.
It’s important to remember that if you do have employees working remotely or working reduced hours, the culture of the organisation needs to also support these flexible arrangements. For example, upskilling opportunities should be available for all employees regardless of working remotely or part time. Manager’s also need to be supportive of employees working remotely and be able to effectively manage remote workers. The correct technology should be in place to work effectively, such as video conferencing technology as an example. Comprehensive flexible work arrangement policies are also important to have in place to ensure employees fully understand their options.
The benefits of supporting and providing flexible work arrangements can have a big impact on your organisation. Not only are you taking positive steps to become an employer of choice, you are also creating a positive workplace culture which in return can result in further success for the business. Technology has come a long way which also makes flexible work arrangements more attainable for more businesses. Looking at current trends, a move to more flexible work practices will become even more important in the future, so maybe it’s time to embrace it.
AHRI Turnover and Retention Research