Flexible working arrangements – Paving the way or playing catch up?


If you live in New Zealand you know there are two things for certain: The first, good candidates are worth their weight in gold. The second, CBD traffic is awful.

Why is that relevant? Because we’re in the 21st century and things are changing quickly. Not only the markets in which we live and work in, but also the way in which they impact us.

Back in the good old days, it was expected that staff, for the most part, worked 8:30am-5pm, 40 hours a week, for roughly 30 years. Your life was your job, and in many ways, so was your identity. Attribute it to whatever you want – technology, a younger generation challenging the status quo, maybe even a crusade – but change is coming and it’s not AI, machine learning, or casual Fridays.

This change is flexible work options and it’s knocking on your front door. Across New Zealand, agencies and employers are struggling to find candidates and to attract talent. Trust me, I should know. It’s my job to help clients try to attract that talent, and in this market, well, let’s just say it’s bloody hard.

I recently read a story in Shortlist about Kingfisher Recruitment, addressing how to attract talent. It seems by adopting a range of snazzy changes - including flexible work options and ‘dress appropriately for the day’ initiative - they have opened a wider talent pool, as well as massively increased their productivity.

I decided to do some research. I reached out to my network and interviewed 20 people, asking two questions: • If flexible working options were standard across New Zealand, would you change your hours? • Would work flexibility hinder your ability to do your job? Regardless of their role, or what area of the industry they worked in, the answers were consistent. • Yes, they would ideally change their hours. • No, it would not affect their ability to do their job.

When I pressed them on why, the answers were vastly differently. Some had young families, others liked the idea of occasionally working from home, many just wanted to avoid peak hour commuting. I was impressed at the passion though; passion that collaboration was achievable, deliverables wouldn’t suffer, and customer care would still be a top priority if flexible working arrangements were available.

It was widely appreciated that flexible work options couldn’t be rolled out overnight and that it wouldn’t be possible 100 per cent of the time. Rotating rosters, communication and common sense were listed as some of the best tools available to decide when flexibility was appropriate, along with careful planning, input/feedback from staff, and perhaps adoption of new technologies.

Another noteworthy find was no one wanted to completely leave the office environment, they were just motivated to improve their – and their teammates’ – quality of life and lifestyle options. It was refreshing to hear that people wanted to achieve work goals, but also help each other achieve greater work-life balance.

My impression so far? Flexible work arrangements seem to increase staff morale, make employees more vocal advocates for the organisation and promote happiness.

It brought to mind a story I read in Focus on securing the long-term commitment of your team. The gist of it was, long-term staff look for specific things, but prominent among them was “a fair exchange” and “an environment for success”. Most of us spend more time at work than we do with family or friends, so why shouldn’t it be a fair exchange in terms of effort in, revenue generated, and happiness and satisfaction achieved?

Why shouldn’t the environment for success include flexible working?

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