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Flexibility in our Workplace

By Jenny Ghobrial - 15th March 2019  |  HR Director

Many of our clients have indicated that they struggle with how to apply flexible work practices to all their employees, both white and blue collar.

The key is understanding that our employment practices are built on 150-year-old constructs coming out of the industrial revolution. Our opportunity is to challenge these constructs and the assumptions that get in the way of applying new, flexible working practices.

For many of our clients with diverse workforces they are looking for creative ways in which their customer facing, and blue-collar employees can benefit from flexible work practices. These clients understand that undoing old employment constructs is critical to creating a modern and attractive place to work.

The following 9 tips are strategies that we know have worked in Australia, and around the world, for blue collar workers as well as office-based employees.

  1. A Leave policy – allowing employees to take accrued leave in half-hour increments that they can take anytime including in the middle of the day. This promotes transparency and reduces stress, as well as unnecessary leave taking.
  2. Annualising hours – so that employees work a certain number of hours spread out over a whole year, rather than over a week or month. This has been particularly useful for remote workers or where work is quite seasonal.
  3. Start and end time flexibility – this has worked well in factories, agriculture and construction industries. Our experience is that technology makes this much easier to achieve and often requires a shift in culture and traditional ways of operating. Interestingly it also allows for different working patterns, for example working some hours in the office during the day and some hours away from the office in the evening.
  4. Varying work hours – for example, working longer hours during school terms and fewer hours or work days during school holidays.
  5. Compressing the work week – by working the equivalent of a full week (5-days) over four days. WH&S considerations are important here.
  6. Split-shifts or working non-traditional hours – or example, one INS employee working from France started at 3pm Australian Eastern Standard time and worked into the evening. NSW Government bus drivers have been successfully working a split shift for many years.
  7. Job sharing — two part time employees filling one full-time role.
  8. Phased retirement – establishing a protocol for reducing hours progressively over a specified time period rather than ceasing work completely.
  9. Rostering – case studies show that providing employees with some degree of control over their own rosters has many positive flow-on effects. Some examples include:
    • Providing for shorter shifts or variable length shifts (longer one day, shorter the next)
    • Easy shift exchange without manager approval
    • Creating multiple roster combinations (at one Australian site, BHP offered 13 different rostering combinations for employees to choose from).

Flexible work requires a change in culture and approach. Having policies in place is only part of the solution, though it’s a great place to start. Currently in many workplaces the burden is on employees to ask for and prove that they are responsible or deserving enough, to access flexible workplace practices.

The critical and key ingredient of the most successful case studies I have worked with include training leaders and managers, while focusing on the cultural and emotional shift of the workforce.

Creating the environment to support flexible work is our challenge and our opportunity. We would be pleased to support you to implement the flexible work practices that best suit your unique environment.

Sophia Symeou

CEO and Founder INS

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