Is flexible working destined to become the new norm?


flexibility at work for parents

Featured | Workplace

By Loren Webb

Flexible working is gaining a lot of attention in the media recently. You may have seen, for example, Microsoft Japan’s story on testing out flexibility with a four-day work week – where productivity was significantly boosted (by 40%) – or ideas of 6 hour work days that have been passed around. 

A lot of employers use flexible working hours as a key attractor, listing it in their reasons for future employees to consider working for them. This seems to be more common among startups with ‘startup culture’, but is harder to find in large corporates. 

Flexible working can generally be defined as flexibility around the hours, location or patterns of work. Younger generations are adaptive to working at different hours in different locations and want these options reflected in their jobs.

Beyond simply offering millennials and Gen Z what they desire, flexible working also comes down to supporting employees in different personal circumstances. A few examples would include parents looking after their children, mums and dads returning from parental leave, an employee caring for a dependent family member, attending doctors appointments and so on.

Joel McInnes, CEO and co-founder of FlexCareers believes employers will need to adopt flexibility in order to attract, retain and motivate diverse talent into this year and beyond.

flexibility at work and flexible hours Joel McInnes

Joel McInnes, CEO and co-founder of FlexCareers

Established in 2015, FlexCareers is a careers platform connecting candidates seeking flexible work with progressive employers that can offer that.

Joel believes that we are progressing ever closer to a world of work where flexibility is the norm, not the exception. He offers his top five flexible workplace predictions for 2020 and beyond.

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Multi-generational demand for flexibility will continue to increase 

Into 2020, candidate demand for flexibility will continue to increase, not only driven by working parents and others seeking a more balanced life, but also from the generations at either end of the spectrum.

By 2025, millennials are forecast to be the largest generation within the global workforce. Professional services companies such as Ernst & Young have already reported that millennials make up over two thirds of their entire employee base.

This agile, digital generation expects flexibility as a standard element of any new role and is accustomed to working effectively at any time and from anywhere.

Historically low interest rates are also forcing older generations to work longer, with the returns from superannuation and other savings falling below expectations. And the demand for part time, flexible work from this demographic will be huge. Employers will need to rethink how they retain these valuable skillsets by enabling this generation to work for longer.

Employers will need to revisit and raise the bar on family flexibility

As family and work life becomes more blended, thanks in large part to increasing workplace flexibility for parents, progressive employers will need to refresh their family flexibility policies to remain ever more competitive.

In 2019, employers such as Deloitte raised the bar in this core area of flexibility with a push towards generous gender neutral parental leave policies, creating a workplace culture more accepting of carers at work and by extension, helping to reduce the gender pay gap.

Smart HR teams will focus on their LVP and creating candidates from within 

One of the major priorities for HR teams into 2020 and beyond will be the need to create candidates rather than hiring new ones. In short, employee mobility will become a key focus for HR professionals, especially within organisations impacted by automation or disruption.

Rather than make employees redundant, how do you reskill your existing employees to retain them within your organisation? And give them the flexibility they need to retrain or study and work at the same time?

Into 2020, an employer’s learning value proposition (LVP) will become just as important their employee value proposition (EVP). It’s not just about articulating the type of work on offer and the workplace culture surrounding it, it’s also about the opportunities on offer for candidates when they join a company. Advanced training and development along with career coaching services will all be in high demand.

Employers will need to refresh their employer branding to incorporate flexibility

2020 will also be the year where employers need to rebuild their employer brands to better reflect flexibility as part of their workplace culture.

As flexible working has started to take hold over the last four to five years, it’s changing the lived experience within most progressive companies. Many of the employers we work with do not have flexibility as a key pillar of their employer brand and yet they are doing some really great things to embed flexibility internally.

Environmental concerns will drive an increase in remote working

With Australia in the midst of its worst fire season ever, the impact of climate change on our daily lives is starting to hit home. More employers will realise that encouraging remote working has a huge impact on reducing carbon emissions and achieving sustainability goals. And with hazardous air quality and pollution set to continue, the health benefits of staying at home to work are significant.

Lastly, I’m often asked, what more do you think needs to be done to normalise flexibility in the workplace?

There’s no silver bullet. We need a portfolio approach that sees flexibility as part of D&I, wellbeing and the future of work.

Into 2020 and beyond, we need to move away from the perception that flexibility is just a nice thing to have, towards more hard dollar cost benefit analyses.

We need to let data inform our strategies and turn solutions into tight business cases. Ultimately the cost benefits of flexibility in addition to the wellness benefits – for organisations and individuals regardless of gender – are huge.

Similar reading:

Public transport disruption prompts flexible working hours

Ditch conventions, boost output: The CEO of FlexCareers on the power of flexible working

Mums supporting mums: flexible working hours

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