Whether you’re shifting to a new hybrid work arrangement, a working parent, juggling part-time study or simply have a greater appreciation for a healthier work-life balance, flexibility at work is crucial to job satisfaction for most employees. The good news is many Australian workplaces are embracing flexible work arrangements as the norm, thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns and the rapid uptake of digital technologies.
A 2020 study by MetLife Australia revealed 73% of employers offer flexible work arrangements. And this figure was expected to continue growing, given that more than half, 54%, of employees say they would consider leaving their job if flexibility wasn’t an option.
Flexible working undoubtedly has its benefits, however there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Achieving flexibility in the workplace is all about finding a schedule that suits your situation, working habits and personal preferences, while still meeting your obligations for your employer and your role.
If you’re looking to achieve flexibility in your workplace, here are some work arrangement options to consider, as well as how to work with your manager to find the best approach for everyone involved.
Evaluate the different options for flexible work arrangements
Although flexible working has traditionally been equated with working from home, the concept is far more malleable and can be tailored to both you and your employer. Working from home for a portion of each week may be the right approach to take, but there are also a host of other options that may better suit your situation. These include:
- Adjusting your number of working days. More companies are embracing the four day work week, and for good reason. With a reduced number of working days, you’re likely to be more focused as you have less time to complete your tasks, which in turn can lead to greater productivity and less interruptions at work. Plus, with three days off, you’ll have more time to spend with your family and friends on the weekend, and you’ll come back to work feeling refreshed come Monday – or whatever day your shorter work week starts.
- Change your working hours to better suit your lifestyle or working habits. If you’re a parent, you may prefer to start early and finish early so you can pick up your kids from school. Alternatively, if you’re the type of person whose productivity peaks in the afternoon, you could request a later start and finish time.
- Work from different branches or offices. Rather than request flexibility in working hours or working days, you could also request a flexible work arrangement that allows you to regularly change your work routine or fit in with travel plans. You could ask to work in a different office for a few weeks every year, or hot-desk in different states, provided your company’s infrastructure and technology allows for it.
- Job sharing. If you need to dedicate more time to taking care of responsibilities outside of work, job sharing offers the flexibility to work part-time while sharing the duties of a full-time role with someone else.
How to ask your manager about flexible work arrangements
While it can be daunting to approach your manager with a proposal for flexibility at work, it helps to remember that open communication and building trust are key to achieving a feasible arrangement. Also keep in mind that a ruling by the The Fair Work Commission requires all companies to provide reasoning and alternative arrangements if they deny an employee’s flexible work request.
That said, your manager could have a number of reasonable concerns around flexible working – from performance management to meeting deadlines – which is why it’s important to prepare and to listen. If you’re getting ready to speak to your manager, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be clear about what you’re asking. Write down your request and be specific in what you’re asking for rather than having a vague idea. Don’t forget to check with HR about your company’s existing flexible working policy to make sure there’s no conflict before you make a proposal.
- Keep your company’s priorities in mind. While it can be easy to focus on how having a flexible work arrangement benefits you, it’s important to consider the needs of your organisation and frame your request this way. For example, if you can start and finish earlier, it may mean you have less interruptions during the day, which can lead to more focus and productivity. The more you can show your manager that they will benefit, the more open they will be to your request.
- Address their concerns and note them down. It’s natural for your manager to have some hesitation or scepticism when you present them with your request, and during this time it’s important to listen to their thoughts and give them an opportunity to voice their concerns. Note down any key points during the conversation, then come back with solutions or alternatives during a follow-up meeting.
Above all, finding the right flexible work arrangement means showing you, too, are flexible in your request. Perhaps your agreement means you can start and finish at different hours to the core business with the exception of staying back when there are annual deadlines or attendance at key events, for example.
By working together with your manager on a solution and being open to alternative approaches, you can find a win-win solution for everyone involved.
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