flexble working

Over the last 15 years, although there has been a trend towards part-time work, flexible work has been reined in by the rules and policies and discretions of the employer. But the pandemic and its many lockdowns have seen things change dramatically! Different ways of working flexibly are now on the agenda.  Some workers may never have to return to the office.

We chatted to Paula Bruce, Senior Workplace Relations Adviser from iHR Australia to find out about the key changes to flexible working policies we all need to be aware of.

Flexible working has had to shift very quickly because of COVID. What are some of the key changes to policies that will need considered and potentially adjusted to bring them in line with ‘post-COVID workplaces’

Policies pre and post COVID-19 need to be reviewed and simplified. Then change management can be reflected in workplace policies.

For example:

  • The 12 months rule
  • Who can apply, in writing
  • Reasonable grounds for refusal from business
  • Update safety policies to incorporate working from home considerations

Manager’s discretionary powers need to become more open and accommodating because workers now have different expectations and have shown they can work efficiently at home.

Changes to employment contacts

Now is a good time to review Employment Contracts to attract a diverse and flexible talent base, including the option of outsourced/temporary workers and contractors. This could be in the form of fixed term contracts and contracting out with the goal to attract long term loyalty by engaging with a more flexible workforce.

Nine to five and set hours have become less important than outcomes and achievements.

A study by the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Human Brain Health showed that a huge number of people struggle to deliver their best performance during work hours they are not naturally suited to. And whether you’re a morning or night person might be dictated by your genes. This may explain why some of us get our best work done from the early hours, while others function best at the other end of the day and night.

The pandemic provided businesses with a surprise wake-up call. Lockdowns and remote working saw a ‘forced experiment’ of flexible working, which by saw corporations, such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, achieve record profits. Studies from that period show that employees worked longer hour’s, including into the night and on weekends. Their productivity was actually, exceptional!

Admittedly there was no outlet for people to socialise during strict lockdowns, but there is no denying that flexible working and doing away with the rigid 9 to 5 structure can be not only very beneficial to businesses but it can result in happy employees too. Organisational policies and procedures should be updated to reflect these new ways of working, to accommodate the requirements of current employees and to attract future prospects.

Be prepared with the right policies and procedures.

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