Australian workplaces are inflexible in comparison to Asia Pacific region

Australian workplaces are inflexible in comparison to Asia Pacific region

Majority of workers want to work remotely 30% of the time

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, who are unable to work remotely.

While the Federal Government continues to encourage local businesses to improve their flexible working options with initiatives such as National Telework Week, the latest World of Work Report by recruitment and HR specialists, Randstad, 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 specialist recruitment & HR solutions provider, Randstad, says flexible working options need to become more of a focus for senior management and HR decision-makers in Australia to improve employee engagement, boost performance and productivity and foster loyalty.

“It’s clear Australian workers are calling out for more innovative and flexible working practices, and it’s disappointing to see Australia lagging behind much of the region when it comes to implementing these practices.

“With flexible working arrangements and a good work life blend becoming more important to people, businesses which continue to overlook this could find themselves losing their top talent.

“There are many ways organisations can be more flexible with their workforce, such as staggering start and finish times; hiring employees on a part-time basis; but mostly, it’s just about business leaders being supportive when staff have personal commitments or need flexibility in the way they work.

“Employees don’t always have to be in the office from 8.30 -5.00pm to prove they are working, productive and effective. For flexible working arrangements to work, and for businesses to benefit, there needs to be mutual understanding, trust and very clear expectations on both sides about what needs to be done, by when and an agreement that the job will get done.

“Employees who crave flexibility really value it, so businesses may see a boost in engagement, performance, productivity and loyalty as a result,” says Shepherd.

Most concerning about the slow uptake in Australia is many employers already understand the benefits which flexible working strategies have on a business – with 41% believing it boosts employee engagement and satisfaction, and 27% agreeing it assists in the attraction and retention of top talent.

“While the benefits are acknowledged, concerns from management about employee productivity is one of the major barriers to stronger adoption of flexible working arrangements,” says Shepherd.

To stamp out apprehension and ensure productivity and engagement levels positively benefit from flexible working practices, business leaders need to have guidelines and a framework in place to foster virtual teamwork and collaboration.

“This might mean using video technologies such as Skype or Google hangout to discuss, meet and collaborate, particularly when working on team projects.

Blended modes of work

As workplaces continue to evolve, flexibility will drive a variety of employment modes – with 86% of organisations planning to manage an increasingly blended workforce of permanent, contract and virtual staff members.

“In the post GFC labour market, we are already witnessing an increasingly diversified workforce. To better align with peak business periods and reduce overheads, Australian companies will increasingly look to hire employees on a temporary or contract basis, so they can scale-up and scale-down as required,” says Shepherd.

“This will allow businesses to navigate transient staff and budgets through peaks and troughs with less risk in times of uncertain business conditions.”

Managing a multi-generational workforce

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.

“The key to successful flexible working will be tailoring options for different types of workers,” says Shepherd.

“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.

“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,” says Shepherd.
Posted: Saturday, 12 July 2014 - 4:42 PM