Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Inside Small Business and has been republished with permission.
Who could forget the disastrous train delays Sydneysiders experienced at the beginning of this year? Massive delays resulted in commuters across the city waiting hours to get to and from work, with some even turned away from their platforms due to overcrowding issues. Unfortunately for many, including office workers, the only option to get to and from work was to bear the brunt of costly Ubers and taxis to make sure they arrived on time.
However imagine if the majority of these commuters were able to work from home? Considering the incident, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on your workplace’s flexibility policy. Does your business give your employees the opportunity to work from home to avoid public transport delays? Regardless of this specific incident, how does your business size up on a daily basis when it comes to flexible working options?
Australia's Stance on Flexible Work Life
There’s no denying that our lifestyles are changing. As we see new generations come up through the workforce, and the world becomes more and more connected, employees demand more from the businesses they work for, including technology.
According to recent research from MYOB, employees aren’t yet stepping up to the plate when it comes to offering their employees flexibility at work. The research revealed that only 54 per cent of small and medium enterprises are offering flexible working arrangements, despite employees being more connected than ever. Interesting, given that Australian business owners rank flexibility at work a top priority, and it is often the reason they decide to start their own business in the first place. So how can workplaces adopt a flexible working policy?
Introducing Flexible Working Practices
While investment in a vibrant office space and employee perks are important, the simplest way to promote flexibility in the workplace is through investing in innovative technology. Whether it’s a cloud-based document storing application, instant messaging program, project management tool, or a meetings platform, investing in innovative technology is vital to help employees work remotely successfully. These tools are also less expensive and more readily available than ever before.
The availability of innovative technology and other collaboration tools has meant traditional barriers are no longer blocking employees from working remotely and flexibly. This is interesting, however, as according to recent research by BlueJeans, only 41 per cent of Australian employees strongly agree their company is providing them with the meeting technologies for them to do their job effectively. Lack of or poor implementation results in frustrated employees, which ultimately leads to high employee turnover and wasted dollars.
Another way for employees to ensure they’re feeling prepared for flexible working is through proactive preparation. It can be as simple as sitting down with your teams and chatting through any potential challenges with the new arrangement and brainstorming ways to overcome these issues. Doing so will allow the team to identify and agree upon the channels of communication the team will use, as well as discuss potential scenarios of conflict between the work and the new arrangement.
Flexible working is a win-win for employees and employers. Increased job satisfaction by simply knowing employees have the option to change their work days based on their personal needs means increased productivity and loyalty for the business. But this is just the start. The second part of this byline series will showcase the benefits flexible working provides small businesses.