But with many managers still measuring the performance of their employees based on time spent in the office, rather than output, many are asking whether we’re in for an uphill battle.
Some companies already use flexible practices in their workplaces. Millennial Paige Dawber-Ashley found her dream job a couple of years ago.
It was in a small company, very tight-knit, and employees regularly socialised outside work.
Everyone was respectful of each other and everyone was trusted to do their jobs. They were required to be in the office during the day for client meetings, but otherwise people came and went from the office as they pleased, as long as the work was done.
This workplace is now the exception, rather than the rule, but across New Zealand, work arrangements are changing.
In a survey by recruiting company Hays, 89 per cent of employers said flexible working options are important to attract and retain staff.
Why attitudes are changing
People prefer flexible work hours for different reasons:
• The search for affordable housing means more people live further from their workplaces;
• Some people are changing their work hours to try to achieve a better work-life balance;
• And working parents need some flexibility to care for their children.
The latest MYOB Business Monitor survey of 1,000 small to medium-sized businesses showed 60 per cent offer some form of flexible work options to staff.
It’s a good thing too – because the next generation of workers expects flexibility.
By 2020, about 75 per cent of the global workforce is expected to be made up of millennials, according to the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017.
Millennials like Dawber-Ashley see their jobs as an integral part of their lives – they look for work-life integration, rather than work-life balance.
To encourage loyalty, productivity and keep staff, companies need to think outside the box on working hours. The days of rigid workplaces with clock-watching employers, where tardiness is not tolerated and lunch times are pre-determined, are numbered.
If they can’t find the jobs they want, millennials will create them themselves.
Dawber-Ashley’s dream job was at a company run by fellow millennials. When she decided to start her own company, her bosses not only encouraged her to do it, they mentored her.
She was able to go to meetings for her own business during the day; she made up the hours at night. As long as she did the work she was paid to do, it didn’t matter when or where she did it.
Dawber-Ashley sold her growing business, and continues to manage it. That company operates with the same levels of flexibility and trust as in her previous job.
“I choose my own work hours. I choose to work 8.30 to 4.30 because that’s what works best for me. Other people in our office work 10 to 6, or 7 to 3,” she says. “I can do half a day’s work at home and the other half in the office.
“In our workplace, no one questions what you’re doing as long as you get the work done. You work in the way that’s most effective for you.”
For Dawber-Ashley, that often means working more than the hours she’s paid for – something that doesn’t bother her.
“I enjoy watching it grow,” she says. “And even when I’m working late at night, it’s my choice to do it – and I do it because I really care about it.”
Flexibility breeds loyalty
The Deloitte study shows those who work in flexible workplaces feel higher levels of personal responsibility for the company they work for. Of those employees in traditional, inflexible environments, only 17 per cent see themselves staying long-term.
Studies from several countries have shown huge productivity benefits from flexible working arrangements. Organisations that encourage flexible working are typically high-performing.
They have a stronger ability to attract, engage and retain staff. Absenteeism rates drop, morale improves, employee loyalty is high, and they engage more with their work.
Dawber-Ashley says she’d never go back to the way she used to work.
“A company culture is so important,” she says. “The job itself and what the pay is, is important, but for me a flexible, supportive culture overrides everything else.”
First published 21 May 2018
Story by Eleisha McNeill
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