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Providing Flexibility In The Workplace
By Sonya Buck, Australia



They say a happy employee is a productive employee and studies* tell us that offering a flexible workplace can also have many positive impacts on health and family.

There are many ways to provide more flexibility in the workplace and here are just a few examples:

Making allowances for external commitments
Everyone has a life outside of work, whether you need to attend your child’s school assembly or have been able to secure that hard to get dental appointment, we all have external commitments. Ensure you get a little notice when the staff member plans to be absent. They can always make up the time in their lunch hour or after normal hours.


Working from home
Not all work can be performed from home, particularly if staff have a face to face customer function, but many roles could be completed outside the workplace either on a permanent home/part home capacity. If you are a little concerned about the work, regularly touch base with the worker and if needed, provide deadlines for work completion.


Providing job share opportunities
Many roles may lend themselves to being performed by two staff members. As long as you have a successful work transition in place which includes effective communication between the staff members and yourself, this arrangement can have a very satisfactory outcome.


Flexible hours
If your staff member has no face to face contact, does it matter if the work is carried out anywhere between 7 am and 7 pm? If the answer is no, your employee may seek to complete the hours with a different start and finish time.


School Holidays
Vacation care is sometimes difficult to secure, therefore a staff member may need to take their leave during this period to take care of their children. Consider this when they make an annual leave request, but ensure there is no discrimination for staff members with no children.


Compressed Working Schedules
A compressed working schedule allows an employee to work longer hours on some days and meet their required weekly hours sooner. The employee can then take a day (or part-day) off with the time they have accrued. Common compressed working schedules include a 4-day week and a 9-day fortnight. Some roles may be suited to a compressed working schedule.


Purchased leave
Purchased leave lets you take extra leave each year by pay averaging (e.g. a 48/52 arrangement). You work 44 weeks a year. You take 4 weeks normal annual leave, and 4 weeks extra or purchased leave. Your pay is averaged over the full year so you get more leave but receive a lower annual pay. This can suit employees transitioning to retirement.


If an employee requires a change to their working arrangements their request should be made in writing. Once a request is received, it is a legal requirement for employers to respond to this request within 21 days.

Make sure you have a good discussion with your employee as their request may be able to be altered to suit the workplace. Ensure you consider the consequences of rejecting a request, as you may lose a valued employee. If you are concerned if the arrangement will work, you can mitigate the risk by testing it using a trial.

Ensure you put an agreement in place for any variation in work arrangements.

Tip: If you allow staff members to vary their hours or work arrangements ensure the members of their team or the office know about it. Sometimes there can be resentment, particularly if they don’t know a colleague starts earlier than them and is seen to be leaving early.

Being a flexible employer can have many benefits for both the employee and the organisation. Maybe it’s time to give it a go!

*Society of Industrial and Organisational Psychology.