Working flexibly is not career limiting!

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The following article is authored by Vanessa Vanderhoek, founder of Flexible Working Day.

Many (many) years ago, I was an eager young graduate. Actually, I was fierce! Competitive and ambitious – I looked at the corporate ladder, and decided to take the lift. I put my head down, worked ridiculous hours and made sure I didn’t miss an opportunity to be around the power players. I quickly rose through the ranks.

But then I met a fabulous man, who lived interstate and had two small children from a previous relationship. And for the first time I questioned, did I want a life or a career?

While I had witnessed from afar others dabbling in the world of flexible working (I know, how naïve to considered it ‘dabbling’), I secretly believed adopting such a lifestyle would be career suicide.

Two things happened. Firstly, the fabulous man (now husband) demonstrated working flexibly. As a single dad at the time, he shared drop-off/pick-up and after school activities with his ex. He placed value on his family while holding down a successful career. As he couldn’t work long hours, he worked smarter, more focussed hours.

Secondly, the long-distance relationship meant I had to reconsider my work role. I worked with HR to negotiate a fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) working arrangement (cough – flexible work). I too learnt to work smarter, and focused my attention on work matters far more attentively than I had before. Sure, I could no longer work ridiculous hours, but I didn’t want that so much anymore. I had to let pass Friday night drinks and small work functions, but it was something I was prepared to do.

And the reward? Not only did I gain a life and retain my career, I became a better employee and employer. I had greater empathy to those who struggled in the 9-5 working prison. And was able to efficiently prioritise my time.

Be realistic

You need to weigh up every decision. There is always a cost – family, work, financial, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it work.

Today, I’m in a different stage of life. As a working new-mum, gears have shifted. While I can’t dedicate every day to my career, or say yes to every opportunity, my career hasn’t stalled. I know I have value to bring to the working table. I just choose what I can bring more carefully.

Perhaps you’re considering working flexibly so you can study and thus take your career to the next level. Are you considering working 40 hours in less days, or do you want to only work 32 hours?

Perhaps you want to go part time to focus on your family? Can your role be job-shared? Or can you work every day, but reduce your hours?

Ultimately, what is achievable for yourself and your organisation?

Have a strategy

Before you negotiate flexible conditions, make sure you have a plan. Review your organisation’s policies. Consider how your changed role will affect your team. If you go into negotiations having answered as many questions as possible, you’re sure to be taken far more seriously.

But also know your worth. Don’t underestimate yourself. If you’ve been a great employee with a track record to deliver, then your organisation is likely to do what they can to retain you. Focus your position around KPIs (key performance indicators) so that you and your boss can measure your performance, not based on your face-time in the office, but by your outputs.

Set clear boundaries

For work and for home. This allows you to focus your time and energy on the areas that do matter. Have upfront discussions about expectations and your capacity. Is it worth getting in some extra help to share some of your work (or home!) burden?

Once you’ve set these boundaries, learn how to respectively say no. The more often you continue to press onwards, and upwards at your own cost, the more you’ll be expected to do so. That doesn’t mean we don’t knuckle down during the busy times, but it does mean you shouldn’t set a precedent you can’t maintain.

We have a perception problem | Why we need a National Flexible Working Day

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The following article is authored by Vanessa Vanderhoek, founder of Flexible Working Day.

One of the biggest remarks I hear all the time is, ‘flexible work is just for working mothers.’ This is often followed up by an eye-roll and a furtive glance towards the nearest exit.

And here-in lies the biggest obstacle to flexible work and thus gender equity. Mindset.

I am the founder of Career Inside Track, a consultancy that supports parents to balance the demands of their work and families, and assists employers to harness the benefits of flexible working arrangements to get the most out of their employees. All too often I hear the horror stories of employees trying to negotiate flexible work with organisations refusing to budge from the 9-5, five-day-a-week work model.

It’s not that organisations don’t engage flexible working policies. If you dig a little, most offer traditional flexible options such as part time and carers leave. Sure they could do a lot better, but it’s a start. What’s really concerning, is the negative stigma associated with working flexibly.

A 2016 survey conducted by Bain & Co, found that 60 per cent of males would be open to working flexibly so they could take on more of the childrearing, but were twice as likely to have requests for flexible work rejected.

We conducted a survey recently and the results have been just as disappointing. We found that while flexibility was the most important influencer on career choice for respondents – ahead of remuneration and career progression (let that sink in for a moment) – perceived negativity of working flexibly was greatly felt.

I’m not surprised one bit.

Men were more likely to feel they could not perform their role flexibly while women, despite holding more flexible roles, felt guilty working flexibly. We all carrying the burden that we are not enough. We don’t give enough. One respondent reflected, “There’s a strong bias against flexible workers, that others have to ‘pick up the slack’.”

And we haven’t even mentioned those who care for loved ones with a disability or elderly parents. Or those seeking to move out of their current socio-economic status by working and studying. Or people suffering from mental illness. The reality is – by forcing a set working mould on the culturally, economically, sexually, racially and simply diverse society we live in is hindering us all. We need to re-think the 9-5 workday and shift the focus from face time to productivity.

The problem seems two-fold. Firstly, men and women need to feel they equally have access to flexible work arrangements. To shift traditional gender roles of women as care givers and men as providers, we need a revolving door. One that allows women into the workforce after children, and men out, to care for them.

Secondly, we need a top-down approach than normalises and celebrates flexible work for everyone who wants it. This includes creating jobs that allow for career progression, even while working flexibly, and sharing positive stories – of men and women.

One respondent from our survey shared, “Are we ever going to break through the belief that all senior roles must be performed at five days a week? If not, there is a terribly low ceiling for professional part time employees”.

It’s great to see that some flexible work arrangements are evident in most organisations. More needs to be done, yes. But more importantly, our mindset needs to change. It’s not just about working mums. It’s not just about part time. Language is powerful. And language articulated by the right people, will and does change opinions.

Of course, underpinning all this is a need for governments to engage with flexibility. We need policy makers setting the tone, standard and expectation in the workplace. This includes policies giving rights to employees, access to flexible and affordable childcare and a sophisticated paid parental leave program.

So why do we need a National Flexible Work Day?

  1. To collectively promote the benefits of flexible work and challenge individual and organisational mindsets
  2. To see gender equity achieved in our lifetime
  3. To inform governments and policy makers what is needed from society
  4. To support individuals seeking an alternate way of working
  5. And finally, to champion the organisations doing it well, because there are good news stories out there!

The Flexible Leader | How to manage and motivate your flexible team

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The following article is authored by Vanessa Vanderhoek, founder of Flexible Working Day.

I’ve been an executive for many years in small to large companies and today, run my own business. I’m no stranger to the concept of flexible working. I work with organisations to create flexible working environments that meet their business objectives.

There are some challenges to working flexibly, but the rewards are high. A more engaged workforce, greater productivity and attracting and retaining talent.

Here are my keys to managing and motivating your flexible team.

Engagement | Is anybody out there?

One of the greatest complaints about flexible working arrangements is the lack of face time with employees - ensuring everyone feels part of the team. But as many leaders know, a present employee doesn’t necessarily equate to an engaged employee. Often, those who have taken the opportunity to negotiate flexible working arrangements, go above and beyond to check in with their team. They seek out information and value feedback.

Sure, it’s going to take some extra effort on your part to communicate with your flexible team members, but there’s a bunch of useful - and free - technology to help! Platforms like Slack or Office Skype are great at creating instant communication portals between individuals and groups and can focus on different topic areas. There’s even spaces that create the office idle chatter to help boost morale and relationships.

Platforms like Asana help coordinate projects and tasks. You’re able to assign them to individuals and set due dates.

Many offices are setup with video and phone conferencing facilities, that all your employees need are a phone, laptop, and internet connection. Considering Australia is one of the highest users of mobile devices in the world, it’s safe to say your employees are covered.

Productivity | It’s not just about bums on seats

As I’m writing this very article, my toddler daughter is being entertained by her loving dad and older siblings. I’m perched at the kitchen table in my pyjamas with a lukewarm, half-drunk coffee by my laptop. It’s 8am and a weekend. But an idea took hold and the working conditions were right so I took the opportunity that presented me. I’m likely to stay here for an hour or two solidly working. No distractions (unless World War Three descends and everyone is taken hostage).

Don’t be afraid to set tasks (within reason) and expect results from your flexibly employed team. You’ll be surprised how much they will deliver. In one study, Ernst & Young found that for every 71 women employed in flexible roles, an organisation gained a productivity bonus of one additional full time employee. *

You will more likely need to prioritise your time to ensure you’re not being a road block. The same study found that male employees wasted 19 per cent of their working time waiting for other people, while women wasted 15 per cent.

Re-arrange your work so you have time to answer questions or approve items when your team is available. Consider planning activities further in advanced than you’re used to. Part time employees may need additional lead-up to deliver tasks. This doesn’t mean they’re unproductive. It just means better facilitation of their time.

Culture | Sticks and stones will break my bones…

As a leader, you have a lot of sway. You can help turn negative opinions into positive ones. The more you encourage and lend your voice to, flexible working arrangements, the greater results you’ll see.

A study by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women found that men were less likely to uptake flexible working arrangements because of a negative stigma associated with men taking time off to look after kids. *

This isn’t good enough. If society is to achieve gender equality, men should feel as empowered to work flexibly as women. And the message needs to not only be set from the top, it needs to be actively encouraged – ideally with loud speakers.

Review your organisations policies and consider how flexible working arrangements can benefit your team. Ensure you openly encourage your flexible employees. Speak against flexism and educate those who exhibit negativity.

Finally, celebrate Flexible Working Day. Invite a speaker to your organisation, or setup a discussion panel with some of your top performing flexible workers. Ensure your organisation know, flexible working is available to those who need it.

Suburban life, co-working and collaboration

The following blog is authored by Celia Newlands, Community Manager at Central Business Associates.  It is a Business Centre based in Wynnum offering private office space, co-working space and meeting rooms for hire. Memberships are also available providing networking, collaboration and advertising opportunities, as well as a variety of business support services. 

My husband & I were brought up in small villages in the North of Scotland, so when we moved to Queensland 6 years ago, we chose the wonderful, family-friendly suburb of Wynnum to live in. Once I’d settled the kids into school, I recognised I didn’t want to return to corporate city life, and got involved in the local business community. I opened a flexible workspace in Jan 2015, offering sole traders, entrepreneurs, and small businesses cost-effective ways to achieve life balance, through offices, memberships and workshops.

A large percentage of the people who work here are living genuine ‘flexible working’ lives. My husband works in the shared space on average one day a week instead of travelling into the city, I share my office with 2 other school mums, we have several local dads who use the space so they can spend more quality time at home instead of commuting – most days the place is empty by 3pm, and I’m often first in on a Friday at 9am!

A couple of weeks ago, a local Facebook group was set up, called The Mum Shift. Started by another mum who was ready to go back to work, but finding it incredibly difficult to find jobs within school hours. We are now looking at some possibilities, including meeting with a State Government Department, to discuss how we can push for more traction and progress towards more flexible jobs being available. Many of these women have professional skills which are of huge value to the business community, but are restricted by the reality of 9-5 still being ‘the norm’ for the majority of jobs.

We are even looking into offering to cover Full-time advertised jobs as a collective group – for example a company may advertise to say they need someone to run their marketing department – when you look at the skills required (Marketing Strategy, Digital Marketing, Website maintenance, Email Marketing, Graphic Design) they are really looking for 4 or 5 different expertises rolled into one person. Why can’t 4 specialists do the job Part-time, as a team – potentially giving the business much more expertise/experience, but for the same cost?  

I am delighted to be celebrating and supporting Flexible Working Day 2017, by opening up my coworking room for FREE to our local area for the day – to those who would like to trial the concept, or possibly show their current employer they can work away from the office just as productively - sometimes even more productive! I can’t wait to see the potential connections and collaborations that come from just one day – let’s work towards making it happen every day!

Suburban life – you CAN have the best of both worlds!

Why I believe men want whole-life balance

This blog is authored by Mike Watson, Director Flexion Consulting Pty Ltd and Flexible Working Day Ambassador.  He wrote it in response to the article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 4 June 2017 'Why I don't believe men when they say they want flexibility at work'.

Taking time away from work to look after a sick child or to be home for the initial weeks of settling in a newborn is parenting, not flexibility at work.  I can accept that some men have been slower than others to recognise the opportunity presented to them by parenting in this way.  However, it is unreasonable to cover all men, and particularly younger generations of fathers, as delinquent in this area based on limited exposure to those who speak from bravado rather than truth.  My own story reflects a father of three girls who, 35 years ago, carried at least a 50% load of parenting responsibilities as we both had growing careers. Flexible working opportunities were extremely limited while each of us was an employee.  However, when I eventually acquired my own company, I managed to build flexibility into my ‘Whole-life Balance’ (where work and life don’t compete, but complement each other) so that I could be involved in my girls’ lives 7 days a week, and run a business.

Sure, that requires a cultural change and a different set of beliefs about a father’s role in parenting. But it is the belief about parenting that drives the desire for flexibility, not the availability of flexibility on its own.  Fast forward to today and I see significant change in the beliefs of men in relation to their parenting responsibilities.  Together with mothers who desire whole-life balance, parents and even grandparents, are driving for flexible working arrangements that focus on the outputs that men and women  produce, rather than being limited by work practices that measure inputs as a guide to effectiveness.  I see workplaces that embrace parents bring children into their environments if the needs require it – and colleagues accepting that we each are capable of taking responsibility for our careers and our families.

More needs to be done now to recognise these changing beliefs about parenting and to embrace the opportunities that truly flexible working arrangements can provide for the employees and employers.  That is why I am an Ambassador for Flexible Working Day on 21 June 2017.  Flexible working will become ‘business as usual’ for organisations, and for workers whether employees, self-employed or contractors in the gig-economy.

Data tells an important story. This leader embraced it to drive positive change!

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Throughout my rise into Executive Leadership ranks, I often attended leadership development programs. You know the ones where you sit in a classroom for a day? Learning what kind of leader you are, what has made you the leader you are, share knowledge and ideas about what kind of leader you should be, and acquire behaviours to become that kind of leader.

The question that always stirs in me after these courses is the question I believe is missing from so much of the leadership development programs; “What kind of leader do you want to be?” namely “What is my brand?” what is my “leadership intent”.

While exploring the answers to the leadership questions I posed to myself, I have found my leadership style and use it daily to guide my behaviours. I am open and transparent with my team regarding my brand and use this to keep myself accountable as a leader. My leadership intentions are “know your people”, “assume good intent” and “work from a place of trust”. Unbeknown to be during my progression through the leadership ranks, these characteristics have served me well and strengthened my relationships with teams I work with. Particularly more recently when I started a new executive role in a workplace with an absence rate more than double the average for like kind businesses.

When I started my new role, something that stood out for me was the introduction I was provided on my first day. I was walked around the floor and introduced to my team as a level not a person. This was the first cultural red flag for me. I like to know who my staff members are individually, not as a blanket group of ‘subordinates’ who are defined by a level. I noted the unrest this evoked in me so took it upon myself to sit with each of my 63 team mates to really get to know who they are and share who I am with them. This helped to open communication lines and get to know each other. It wasn’t a quick process but one I worked hard on each day to develop. My strategies ranged from hot desking with the different teams for a week at a time, taking opportunities to have staff teach me things I needed to know and treating them all as SME’s in their fields. This assisted with building trust with me and my team.

Throughout my first month, absence was constantly raised at executive meetings. We were provided high level data on absence and this was what was used to report how poorly we were performing. I wasn’t satisfied with this as I didn’t feel it was a true indicator of the situation within my team based on my observations. I decided I would do my own data trending and obtained absence data from the HR team monthly and developed my own spreadsheet to capture trends. What I found helped guide conversations with specific staff, as opposed to a blanket message that the entire team was taking too much leave. In actuality a pocket of staff where taking the bulk of the leave and the rest of the team where picking up the slack – no wonder the bulk generalised message was not stomached well on the floor.

My approach based on my own data analysis regarding attendance in my area was identifying which absences were avoidable and which were unavoidable. While some attempts were made to estimate the proportion of avoidable absence, there was generally little success in this endeavor. Fundamental to this is how absence should be measured and what types of absence should be measured. Particularly in relation to the productivity impacts of employee absence. I found that the data within the genealised report was negatively skewed by long term or compensable leave which one could argue is out of the area’s control. Regardless of the interventions put in place on the floor the data will always trend upwards.

When analyzing the data with relation to avoidable and unavoidable absences the data tells a different, more accurate story. Unavoidable absence was driven by factors relating to the employee's ability to attend work and is, by definition, not controllable by the employee (employees will become ill or experience family circumstances requiring their presence at home). As a consequence, the workplace can do little to influence this type of absence. The top 4% of absence data was derived from compensable or unavoidable leave. This equated to 40% of the entire sections leave days over the last 12 month period.

Avoidable absence, on the other hand, is driven by factors relating to the employee's ability to attend work as well as their motivation and can be influenced, to some degree, by the workplace. This is the area of focus for me and my teams. Additionally, I chunked the data down and worked in 3 monthly increments as this is a more accurate measure for the operational environment. Focusing on avoidable absence data I noted that the position on the floor was actually a positive one and attendance had improved across the floor by 21% over the measured three month period.

Feeling empowered by the data and the story it told, I analyzed the data further to see if I could identify further trends to assist in targeting conversations with staff and looking at working with each person flexibly to suit their own needs. From the data I was able to establish was that Tuesdays were the most taken day of leave in the last three months, I further noted leave was higher amongst those team members who had caring responsibilities – a potential area of focus for flexible work arrangements. Interestingly I noted that teams that had high annual leave balances also took the most sick leave – a flag for potential burnout. This data helped to guide conversations with staff about how we could work together to improve their attendance but also achieve work life balance – a plan tailored to them alone.

When looking for flexible ways to manage attendance within the section, I was very cognisant to avoid creating or reinforce a culture where staff feels the pressure to report to work even when they are not in a fit state to do so. When dealing with non‐attendance the main issues I considered were;

  • Understanding the EA of the work environment
  • The instances and pattern of non-attendance. The employee’s attendance record can provide historical information – and indicate a trigger for collaborative, solution focused discussion.
  • Whether there is an underlying medical or health problem that requires investigation, treatment and a return to work plan and support.
  • The nature of working relationships, the clarity of job roles and responsibilities and the quality of other working conditions.
  • Talk to staff with motivational issues to see how I can help them and work with them to come up with a solution that suited them individually
  • Changes to advising managers of absence, only a phone call from the employee directly to their manager when unable to attend work, a follow up meeting will also be help with the employee upon their return to work to undertake a wellness check-in and to brief them on work loading and priorities.
  • Through discussion and data analysis, it is evident that a large number of employees who work in the area have caring requirements.  I proposed that the wellness room be made available to staff if the carer’s room is unavailable or if they require specific equipment which is difficult to move between floors.
  • Pilot a work from home arrangement for those parents who have school age children, whose children have been excluded from school, but need minimal care.
  • Granting access for all staff to be able to work from home if required (excluding those on performance plans)
  • Fitness for Duty assessments are being used more regularly for those staff that meet the requirements under the public service regulations. This will assist the employee and workplace better manage staff that have pre-existing or work related injuries.
  • Team Leaders and Managers will continue to work with teams to encourage attendance where safe to do so even if it is to approve a later start time – as once staff got to work they felt supported enough to stay. 
  • Worked with HR team to facilitate a safe work environment for employees who suffer chronic illness or injury.
  • Leaders are provided fortnightly updates through face to face meetings with the HR on the management of employees who are on compensation leave to ensure they are supported in their recovery and return to employment.  If it is identified that these people cannot return to work then work to assist staff seeking suitable duties.
  • Regular reward and recognition within meetings to help staff feel valued and empowered at work.
  • Greater communication from leadership team of key messages and directions to operational staff. Initiatives as part of this are:  
    • Weekly newsletter is being sent each Monday providing specific updates on performance results, activities and initiatives across the area,
    • An Issues Register to provide an alternate mechanisms for staff to provide suggestionson  business improvements etc.
    • Leadership staff attending team meetings to better understands the operational issues impacting on the teams and will continue to do the same.
    • Feedback workshopping and working groups with all staff to understand any motivational issues or work loading pressures they are facing.
    • Strengthening bonds: Fortnightly drinks‘n’nibbles which are monitored executive staff to ensure the responsible use of alcohol
    • Ensuring staff are taking breaks and using extra leave or annual leave when in excess.

Whether you have a large or small team, it is vital to create a healthy atmosphere where people can be open about their feelings and needs knowing they will be heard and assisted based on their needs not a blanket and generic one size fits all approach. If doubts and fears are suppressed, they can weigh heavily on the team members and can be a distraction that can impact performance and attendance. When staff feel trusted and heard, they are easier to manage as they feel a sense of belonging and want to work from a place of trust and good intention

Flexible Work – what part do our biases play?

The following article is authored by Helena Kuo, Partner, En Masse.  En Masse is a founding supporter of Flexible Working Day.

The Fair Work Act 2009 provides that employees have a right to request a flexible work arrangement and employers must respond.  As a result flexible work arrangement policies essential part of an organisation’s HR polices and often forms part of their talent attraction and retention strategies.  We might expect to see increasing numbers of women in more senior levels, however sadly this is not the case.  The proportion of women CEO’s is still hovering around 16%1.  The number of senior women in the ASX 200 actually fell in 20172.

However the data doesn’t reflect the reality, but why is this the case?  What else is happening when there is much support to help women progress to senior levels? One reason might be because the decisions that are made about the progress of women to senior levels is influenced more strongly by our assumptions about gender and working flexibly than we admit.

Our assumptions and unconscious biases about women working flexibly and being serious about their careers may benefit from challenging ourselves on how we make decisions, are the same people making the decisions about career paths for women, and do their biases unconsciously inform robust decisions that are made on merit.  Or, is it that we still believe that women who work flexibly cannot be serious about their career. 

This Flexible Working Day let's challenge our assumptions about men who work flexibly, and recognise the negative judgment (based on our biases) that if they work flexibly it may be a career limiting move for them.  Being aware of how our biases influence our decisions must be key to both men and women being able to work flexibly and achieve their career aspirations.

Source: 1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016;,  2http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-08/fewer-women-ceos-than-men-named-john/8327938

Life is messy. If we want the brightest workforce, we need more flexible work

The following article is authored by Diversity Council Australia CEO, Lisa Annese.  This article was first published in Guardian Sustainable Business.

When Annabel Crabb was collecting stories for her book The Wife Drought: Why women need wives and men need lives, I told her about a moment in my career when I had returned to work after parental leave.

It was six o’clock in the morning and an international teleconference that I was chairing was interrupted by my three children. They were devastated that their pet guinea pig had given birth during the night and that daddy guinea pig had proceeded to eat the babies, and chaos ensued. Throughout this episode, I continued to mute and unmute my line, trying to give the impression that nothing unusual was happening.

If this were to take place today, I would no longer pretend that all was well in the background.

Life is messy. If we want our best and brightest in the workforce, we need to accept that they have complex lives. We need to be flexible when it comes to the realities of balancing career and family.

Being flexible at work doesn’t just benefit people trying to balance their outside lives with work. An extensive body of research demonstrates the business benefits of flexible working. Yet despite this overwhelming evidence, access to flexible work and careers is not widespread. Flexible work is still regarded as an add-on, something we do for mothers for a few months when they are back from parental leave.

But in the face of rapid changes to the way we work, organisations need to move beyond just having policies for flexible working or making ad-hoc adjustments for certain individuals. Companies need to fundamentally rethink the way they design work and jobs.

The World Economic Forum predicts that we are on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. Technological, socioeconomic and demographic shifts are transforming the way we work, demanding flexibility in the way individuals, teams and organisations work.

At Diversity Council Australia, we all work flexibly. As a leader, thinking flexibly wasn’t something that came naturally to me (at first). Yet by looking at our organisation as a whole from a flexible mindset, I could see the benefits.

We all have different things happening in our lives at different times. Not just caring for young kids, but other family members, community roles, study and volunteering. And all of these parts of our identities bring with them different skill sets.

These days we have DCA staff who work remotely, staff who work compressed weeks, staff who are part-time. And it works. Because we designed it that way. And because we want it to.

In today’s workforce, fewer people identify with the stereotype of the ideal worker – a full-time, fully committed employee without personal or family commitments that impact on availability. 

For 63% of two-parent families with dependent children in Australia, both parents are employed full time. Then there are those increasingly facing elder care commitments. And more people are interested in working for themselves. All these employee segments seek flexible work and this demand is likely to increase in the future.

There are a few factors driving the demand for increased flexibility. Globalisation is one. The development of a 24/7 marketplace, and the rapid expansion of the services economy are also having a transformational effect on the workplace, requiring organisations to think creatively about how they can best organise jobs and work to respond to an increasingly diverse and demanding customer base.

Similarly technology is driving – and enabling – greater flexibility. It is dramatically reshaping our workplaces, blurring the boundaries between work and home and diversifying where, when and how employees work. Advances in mobile, internet and cloud technologies, the rapid development of computing power, and the digital connection between multiple objects have all driven workplace innovations such as remote working, telecommuting, coworking spaces, video/teleconferencing, and virtual teams and collaboration.

So the future of work demands new approaches to work design – but have workplaces risen to the challenge? The evidence suggests we have yet to grasp this opportunity to be more innovative.

While some employers are making flexible work more available, there is still a high prevalence of bolted-on temporary arrangements. These arrangements are seen as the exception to the rule, with the full-time, “face-time”, long hours “ideal worker” still the model to which everyone is expected to adhere.

So what does it take to redesign work? DCA’s new research project, Future-Flex, recommends workplace flexibility based on a work design mindset.

More than just accommodating one person’s needs, it’s about redesigning work at a team or whole organisation level, where employees are key partners in developing team-based flexibility solutions.

It’s about flexibility being seen as a business tool that can improve the performance and wellbeing of organisations, teams and individuals, while meeting business goals.

It’s about getting the culture right so it is supportive of flexibility. So employees can access flexibility for all roles and for any reason – and throughout their careers.

And it’s about being aware of our own biases – conscious and unconscious. Many people make assumptions about flexible workers, including that they’re not interested in training and development, aren’t committed to the organisation, or don’t have any career aspirations. We need to explore and challenge these biases.

There are good international examples of successful work redesign that have involved the input of a team of employees. For example, a UK bakery sat down with their bakers and came up with a flexible system of two to three baking shifts a day to maintain a steady supply of fresh bread. The team agreed to rotate their hours each week so no team member permanently worked a shift that did not suit. After the change was made, bakery sales increased by more than 65% in the first year and employee satisfaction in the bakery has risen 10% since the change to 93%.

At an international hotel chain, long work hours and 24/7 operations were taking their toll on managers. A team-based process was implemented to improve work-life fit for managers while maintaining customer service. The criteria for success were that it reduced work hours, stress and job burnout, had no adverse financial impact on business, and sustained high-quality customer service. The results were very positive. Managers’ work hours were reduced by five hours a week. Low-value work decreased by 50%. There was no negative cost or organisational impact and stress and work-life conflicts reduced significantly.

So work redesign is not only doable, it can deliver business benefits, although it does require a completely new approach.

With the support of the Retail Council, National Australia Bank, Allens, IBM, BAE Systems Australia and IAG, DCA has developed new tools to help Australian organisations in the retail sector to increase flexibility.

By changing our thinking and focusing on the team and the organisation as a whole, rather than the individual, we have the opportunity to create more adaptable and sustainable workplaces – with or without guinea pigs.

Top tips for a flexible workplace

The following article is authored by Diversity Council Australia CEO, Lisa Annese.  This article was first published in The third Sector.

Flexibility is key.

No successful sporting coach has ever suggested that only one or two members of a team need to be flexible. While it can be advantageous for certain positions on the field to be more agile and adaptable than others, the real rewards are gained when everyone warms up properly, does the training and becomes fully flexed.

The same is true for flexibility in the workplace. Offering individuals flexible working arrangements is a positive move to accommodate members of the team with particular needs but the true benefits come when everyone is encouraged and supported to adopt flexible work practices.

As with physical agility, flexibility doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t simply expect to wake up one day and be flexible without laying the right foundations. Lack of preparation can lead to injury, or in the case of the workplace, mistakes, missed opportunities, resentment from teammates, and general dissatisfaction. It can also have a long term impact on career prospects. Trying to flex without the proper groundwork is risking an injury that may rule someone out for a season or more.

Diversity Council Australia has been working with employers over many years to help them create flexible, inclusive and productive workplaces. We applaud employers who have recognised that some of their staff would work more effectively if given the opportunity to work from home, adjust their schedule from the standard nine to five routine or take leave in half day increments. However, granting these conditions to the few that are perceived to need it most, is just a quick fix. Systemic change is needed to ensure maximum performance and wellbeing for individuals and organisations alike.

Earlier this year, DCA introduced a new way of approaching flexible working, Future-Flex: Mainstreaming flexibility by design.   This approach requires shifting from a traditional ‘individual accommodation’ mindset about work and flexibility to a ‘work design’ mindset in order to fully unlock the benefits of flexible working.

Future-Flex encourages businesses to rethink, reshape, restructure and redesign. Rather than thinking of flexibility as a means of minimising work-life conflict, it asks “How can we organise team members’ work and jobs to maximise the performance of the organisation, teams and individuals?”

Future-Flex not only creates organisations in which employees can access flexibility for all roles, for any reason, and can have successful engaged careers, it creates opportunities to deliver business improvements. To adopt this new approach, organisations need to:

  • Start with the Team. Employees are key partners in developing team-based flexibility solutions that work.
  • Treat Flexibility as a Business-Tool. Focus on flexible work to boost the performance and wellbeing of organisations, teams and individuals and meet customer service, innovation, and growth and efficiency goals. .
  • Consider Culture. Organisational and team cultures are critical to the success of workplaces where employees can access flexibility for all roles and for any reason, and can have successful, engaged careers.
  • Challenges Bias. For change to occur, everyone needs to explore and challenge assumptions about what it means to be a flexible worker (e.g. about people’s career aspirations, interest in training and development, levels of commitment to the organisation etc.)

So we encourage everyone to bend and stretch their thinking and look more closely at how flexing together is the key to success for all. 

Why dads need flexible work too

The following blog is authored by Julia Jones, Founder, Newborn Mothers.  

I remember my dad telling me about how after I was born by emergency cesarean his boss wouldn’t give him any extra time of work to care for my mum and me. He was really upset about this.

More than three decades later very little has changed.

We often talk about flexible work as something really great for mums so they can fit their job in around their kids. But in reality when men don’t have access to the same flexible working hours as women then flexible work becomes another trap for mothers, another glass ceiling that makes it impossible for women to ever compete on a level playing field professionally.

When a mother is sick, a father rarely takes time off work. I’ve known women with gastro or flu who are barely able to care for themselves, let alone keep their children safe too. Too often they are left alone with children for long hours whilst the husband goes to work. Men don’t have the flexibility required to step in and parent when they are desperately needed by their families, both for the health of their partners and the safety of their children.

During school holidays, fathers rarely take time off work. I remember a woman I worked with before I had children myself who used to bring her two primary school aged boys in to the office during the school holidays and they would play computer games in the corner whilst she tried to work. Needless to say she was frustrated and distracted.

When children have appointments, fathers rarely take time off work. Recently my husband took our daughter to the paediatrician and he looked up from the file as my husband walked in and said “Hello Julia…. oh, it’s usually the mum’s who come in!” He had to look back at his notes to even find my husbands name.

When children are sick and home from school, a father rarely takes time off work. I’ve known mothers cancel important business meetings or call ten billion babysitters cause their men just aren’t available.

I know there will be families reading this who have achieved more gender equality, or perhaps even reversed the stereotyped roles, but the numbers are in: you are in the minority.

Only 5% of fathers work part time, and the wage gap is still stuck somewhere between 16% and 23%.

It is still vastly women who have the flexibility they need at work in order to care for their children. And men still carry on with their careers like it’s the 1950’s.

I’m not suggesting all men want this. I suspect many men feel as trapped by their work for money as women do by their domesticity. I know many men who would rather spend more time with their children, and many women who would be happy to take a family pay cut in order to have dads around more.

More flexibility for men at work would allow them to step into their roles at home with more joy and commitment, and allow more women to stay engaged in their careers if they wished. Men could spend more time bonding with their children and take on their load of the housework, women could have some respite when they are sick or exhausted, or maybe take on some study or work for money.

How do we change this? 

We demand it!

If you are a dad craving more work life balance you are are going to have to rock the boat a little. Ask for that 9 day fortnight. Say you can no longer come to breakfast meetings cause you need to drop the kids at school. Take the carers leave that you are entitled too. Demand time-in-lieu so that your so all those late nights mean you can knock off early on a Friday.

Yes you’ll have to stick your neck out and it might affect your career prospects but how do you think women have been feeling since the 1950s? Until you start campaigning along side us we’ll never be able to get the change we are all craving.

You and your family will ALL be happier for it!

Working From Home - Could You Make It A Success?

work home.jpg

The following blog is authored by FlexCoach Jackie Edwards.  Join FlexCareers and our panel of FlexCoaches every Monday night in the TALENTED FLEXIBLE WORKFORCE Facebook Group. Access support and discuss the issues that matter to you with our community of job seekers and employers.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that more Australian workers than ever before are choosing to work from home. The reasons behind this are not surprising and often relate to things such as a desire for a better home/life balance, cutting costs on office rent and travel, as well as choosing their own working hours. And the decision seems to be paying off - research reported in News.com indicates that freelancers (many of which work from home) are contributing a whopping $51 billion to the Australian economy each year!

But while this all sounds great, working from home can come with challenges. Here are a few ways that you can heighten your chances of making a success out of being a home worker.

Stick to office hours
The beauty of home working is that you can be flexible with your hours. Got a medical appointment coming up? Then take an hour off. The kids Christmas show at school? Make up the time later. But although this freedom is convenient in moderation, it can become a slippery slope to a disorganised and irregular work schedule. Where possible try to stick to some sort of routine. Of course, there'll be times when a tight deadline means working into the evening or family commitments disrupt your working day. But in general, it's best to stick to regular working hours when you can - just as you would in an office environment - so that the lines between your work and home life don't become blurred.

Dress for work
There is no dress code for home working but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make an effort. Sometimes the temptation to stay in your pyjamas might be strong but showering, dressing and getting ready for work will put you in a more focused mindset and help to separate work and home time. It also means you're prepared for any unexpected conference calls!

Have a designated work space
These days there are a number of office options available for those who want to work from home successfully - from garden offices to loft conversions. But your work space doesn't have to be fancy. The idea is that you have a designated area from which you're happy, comfortable and able to work productively. It could be a spare room or even just a desk but it should be functional and well organised. If you can, design and decorate your work space in a way that inspires you - according to Entrepreneur, the colour yellow is thought to induce creativity while low wavelength shades like pale blue are calming. Green plants are also a great addition to your work space - they aren't just aesthetically pleasing but also keep the room free of toxins. It helps to lay down some privacy rules so the rest of the family know not to bother you when you're in your work space.

Eliminate distractions
Working from home can be notoriously dangerous for distractions - whether it's that pile of mounting dishes, your favourite midday TV show or the lure of social media. In the absence of a boss or colleagues keeping tabs on you, it's down to you to remain disciplined. Try to save domestic chores for your 'home time' - just because you're in the house it doesn't mean you're not at work.

Take breaks
Another danger of working from home is not knowing when to switch off. Indeed, many home workers are guilty of over working rather than under working! But knowing when to take a break is important. At the very least you should take a lunch break (just as you would in an office) to refuel, re-energise and return to your work feeling fresh and inspired. Many home workers find that taking a stroll or even including a midday gym session into their working day can help them to remain focused. Ultimately the choice is yours and eventually you will find the best routines and working practices to suit you. 

The art of creating your work-life blend

The following blog is authored by FlexCoach Caroline McGuire (FCPHR).  Join FlexCareers and our panel of FlexCoaches every Monday night in the TALENTED FLEXIBLE WORKFORCE Facebook Group. Access support and discuss the issues that matter to you with our community of job seekers and employers.

The term ‘work-life balance’ has become overused and I often cringe when I hear it thrown around. It’s generally used by those who seek to place the different elements of their lives into silos or boxes. I’m not sure that’s possible, or even desirable, in our current society. We bring our whole self to work and it is very difficult to separate all the elements of our lives and our persona. 

Work-life balance also implies there needs to be a trade-off; that if we adjust one side of the lever we lose out on the other side. 

For me it’s more about knowing your values and priorities, then setting boundaries to ensure time allocated to those priorities is protected. There will be a bit of give and take but it’s important to ensure you are not ‘giving’ too often or too much on those high priority activities. And your blend of life activities will naturally be different to another person’s, just as our values and priorities differ and continue to evolve through different life stages.

I’ll just briefly mention the enabling and intrusive nature of technological advances. The ability, desire or requirement to be ‘always on’ has changed the way we view work time compared to personal time. 

Many of us love the flexibility technology brings to the way we work. 

We may choose to leave the office at 3 pm, collect up the kids and head home for the rituals of homework, dinner, baths and bed, then log back in when it suits us to follow up on emails, etc. Or we may choose to take care of a few personal tasks while at work, knowing we are happy to stay in the office a little later that day. When this is our choice and the way we prefer to structure our days, I don’t see anything wrong with that. 

Isn’t that the whole goal of flexible working?

So how do you find your blend when things feel like they are out of control and the pressure of keeping all the balls in the air is too much? 

About those balls – drop some! Not the ones that are important to you of course but sometimes we find ourselves working towards other people’s priorities and undertaking irrelevant tasks when our time should be spent on our own stuff. Spend some time thinking about what is really important to you. When you look back over your week, your month, your life, what don’t you want to have missed and where do you want to have spent your time? Reflecting on your personal goals around work, family, friends, wellness, community and spirituality will enable you to identify your priorities. Your values and goals will help you to remove the white noise and understand where your time needs to be spent.

If you have gone through this process, or if you already had a pretty good handle on it, you then need to ensure you are maintaining boundaries. 

If your goal is to leave at 3 pm you need to stick to it. Educate your team and your clients so that they understand why this is your priority. If you plan to spend an hour during your work day on your studies, then let people know you don’t want to be disturbed during this time and why. Look at the best way to structure your role and your tasks to maintain your boundaries and protect your priorities. Do you need to delegate some tasks or work more closely with a colleague so you can jointly support each other’s flexibility goals? Where do you have the flexibility to ensure focus on your priorities?

I feel we should be considering a personalised blend of work-life priorities, not a one size fits all work-life balance. Our own special blend of secret herbs and spices. Only you know what’s important to you and how you prefer to blend all areas for a successful, fulfilling life. 

Flexible work works for people with a disability

The following blog is authored by Jessica May, Flexible Working Ambassador.  She is she CEO and Founder of Enabled Employment.  They have highly skilled people ready to work for you now. Advertise or apply today! To find out more click here.

Flexible work presents an opportunity for people to access paid work and break the cycle of poverty which having a disability can cause.

Flexible work can include job sharing, part time work, flexible hours, home based work, and results only work environments.

Enabled Employment encourages the use of flexible work for people with a disability, for several reasons.

Firstly, it enables people with a disability to maximise their contribution to the workforce. Travelling to and from a workplace can exhaust a person with a disability, and reduce the number of hours they are able to work. Working from home ensures that the exhaustion and difficulty with transport is not impinging on a person’s health, nor their ability to undertake their work.

Working from home is a safe environment for many people with a disability. Where an office may require modification, a person’s home is generally set up already to best enable a person to manage their disability, and a home office ensures occupational health and safety spot checks can be undertaken.

Full time, flex time, my time

The following blog is authored by Hayley Windsor, Flexible Working Ambassador.  She is a millennial passionate about everything business, yoga and reflection.  You can follow Hayley here.

The first time I heard the string of words; flexible work arrangement was about 5 years ago. As a management consultant for people and organisational change, I was conducting a workforce planning piece for a client in the airline industry. I very quickly became familiar with the breadth, depth and benefits of flexible work arrangements and began pondering where and how they could be better integrated in organisations. I began to consider how they could enhance people's lives and careers.

Somehow, along the way, I became a living example of a flexible work operative. 

I’m Hayley Windsor. You can find me at hayleywindsor.com.

I'm an independent business consultant, project manager and boutique yoga retreat host. I possess diverse career experience through which I’m known to bring a fresh perspective, excellent engagement skills and an outcome-driven mindset. I apply myself with a high degree of professionalism, authenticity and energy. But that doesn’t mean I work in a tall building with an access card and a weekly timesheet.

If I think about it, I’ve experienced a wide spectrum of flexible work arrangements.

My first professional role was with a publishing company in Thailand. This job allowed flexibility for continuation of my Bachelor of Journalism studies (via an online university) and eventually expanded to include weekly Thai language classes during work hours. I later worked for a global business reporting agency with Headquarters in Istanbul and up to 15 multi-national, multi-lingual project teams spread across four continents at any one time. My full-time role in a Big Four consulting firm followed this, and then I moved to flexible-full-time employment in a national non-profit where I managed part time and remote team members. More recently, I made the shift from a part-time-flexible role as a senior business analyst for a State health department, to self-employment.

The last three pieces of work I delivered were completed remotely...

... from a cafe in Bali en route to a surf session, from Singapore airport en-route to Abu Dhabi for a friend's wedding and from the ground floor of The Star Casino complex on my way to a Gold Coast Business Breakfast event. One of the deliverables included contributions to a report for Flexible Working Day, which explores the current state and future opportunities of flexible work arrangements in Australia. It’s a topic I encourage individuals and organisations to explore and a future I believe is inevitable.

I’m a proud ambassador of Flexible Work Day and the three key elements for making flexible work arrangements a success: Delegation, Communication and Trust.

A mutual understanding and application of these between employee and employer, plus a focus on outcomes as opposed to inputs (including time), has proven pivotal to the success of my employment experiences. I continue to keep them at the core of my freelance consulting arrangements also. Technology, globalisation and social shifts all point toward a future where we live, travel and work more flexibly and fluidly. For me, working independently enables better integration of a passion for health, fitness, yoga and travel whilst continuing to help organisations improve performance, problem solve or transition more sustainably during times of significant change. For others, it optimises time spent with family or it addresses physical, geographical or personal barriers to working the traditional, location-dependent nine-to-five.

As an organisation or individual, integrating flexible work practices is exciting and challenging at the same time. Unlike traditional ways of working, there are few requisites, references or pre-existing frameworks to follow - but I’m certain of a future working world that embraces flexibility and I intend to stay at its forefront. Like the analogy in the forthcoming Flexible Work Australia Report about the progressive versus reactive taxi industry (Uber vs Taxi); I’d prefer to jump the queue and become a driver of the change and an ambassador for its benefits.

What about you? Uber or Taxi?

Are you metaphorically standing in the rain in a designated line, or are you the individual ahead of the times, hopping into a traceable car one street north?

As an organisation, how long are your employees willing to wait for workforce flexibility when such an offer might be waiting just around the corner?

The new F-word – Flexism

Flexism / noun / predjudice or discrimination on the basis of a person’s working status.
 
Synonyms: PREJUDICE, DISCRIMINATION, bias

That’s right, we have all heard about sexism, ageism, racism and now Career Inside Track has defined the term 'flexism'.

Australians are well known and proud of 'working hard to make a living'.  But on the rare occasion when you haven’t been ‘present’ at work, have you felt guilty? Well you’re not alone.

It seems loyalty to work is being ‘seen’ sitting at your desk, and it’s bred a culture of 'presenteeism'.  Eighty per cent of success in life is just showing up, according to Woody Allen.  But increasingly research suggests that in the workplace, this is actually counter productive and perversely costing the economy far more than absenteeism.  

Employees are increasingly seeking jobs that allow them more quality time with family, flexibility to juggle work with caring responsibilities, less stress and a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Not only that, customers these days expect 24/7 service and digital technology is increasingly helping make this possible.  Technology is forcing organisations to take action and embrace the flexible working phenomenon to respond to these changes.

Flexible working is not a new concept.  Unfortunately it still has connotations with certain stereotypes such as ‘working mums’ and people that choose not to ‘work as hard’ as their '9 to 5' colleagues.  Despite this, the facts are clear - flexible working drives increased productivity, including attraction and retention of talent in the workplace.

So if flexible working is a win-win for employers and employees, why don't more people embrace it?

The truth is flexible working arrangements can be difficult to implement - but that is no longer a valid excuse for not moving forward.  We all have a responsibility to call out and do what we can to address the barriers that are holding us back, including tackling flexism head on.

For flexibility at work to benefit everyone, people need to have a flexible mindset, attitude, and approach to work. We need work cultures, structures, processes, roles and job formats that are also flexible.

Flexible Working Day is an opportunity to celebrate, recognise and showcase how flexible working can benefit all employees and employers.

It’s also a day to address flexism by challenging and transforming our own views and thinking about flexible working – in relation to our careers and colleagues, personal and family life, and health and wellbeing.

This Flexible Working Day, utilise the tips, tools and resources to identify what is going to help you #FlexWorkFullLife and TAKE ACTION! 

There’s never been a more exciting time to talk about the benefits of flexible work…  Let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly, but more importantly, let’s find solutions that can benefit everyone!  

For further information please visit www.flexibleworkingday.com and #FWDay2018.

Let's #TackleFlexism together!