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5 ways to promote balance for a happier, healthier, more productive worklife

by Carl Stephen

Persons feet up on coffee table while working from home

From nine-day working fortnights, flexible start and finish times, work from home days, extended leave, sabbaticals and professional development assistance, there’s a range of flexible work strategies available to support individual circumstances and personal needs.

At Six Degrees Executive, our company experiences many benefits from taking a flexible approach to working arrangements. Our consultants are generally more engaged with their work, are happier, healthier and genuinely committed to getting results for the business and our clients.

To be, or not to be? (flexible at work)

With more than one-third of employees around the world reported to be disengaged from their work, helping our candidates and clients get clear on the benefits of a flexible workplace, and how it can be tailored to meet individual needs is really important.

The first point worth noting is a simple, best practice tip. Accepting or rejecting an employee or candidate request for flexible arrangements is not a black-and-white choice employers have to make. Taking the time to meet and discuss the request before coming to a final decision is key. You want to work towards negotiating an outcome that meets both your needs; the business’ and the individuals.

Traditionally, “flexibility” is commonly structured to include or consider these kinds of work arrangements:

  • Start and finish times
  • Working remotely (i.e. from home)
  • Part-time or varied hours over a shorter working week
  • Extending unpaid leave (where entitlements have been used)
  • Work trips that include overnight travel
  • Making up missed work hours without loss of pay
  • Ability to buy additional annual leave
  • Parental or carer’s leave

In the modern working context, these options are just the beginning of how you could be shaping flexibility within your workplace. They represent basic entitlements that the Fair Work Ombudsman and The Victorian Equal Opportunity  & Human Rights Commission say all employees can look into.

Beyond the basics of flexible work

When our clients switch corporate thinking from how much time their people are spending in the office versus actual results and outcomes, almost immediately there is room for a discussion around raising the bar on basic ‘flexible working’ approaches.

Based on the type of business you are in, developing the best strategy to suit business goals will vary. Here are five progressive and flexible work tactics to consider:

  1. Remote work and distributed teams: More than 55% of Australians say they are more productive working away from the office environment. Businesses need to feel confident with the ‘freedom’ remote work provides and build a plan for staying in touch with team members in a way that fosters a positive team culture. 
  2. Team agnostic work: If remote work is not a viable option, is being flexible around when your team does their work a possibility? Bloomberg reports that job satisfaction increases and stress and fatigue decrease when employees are given more say in the hours they work.
  3. Job sharing: Why loose experienced team members because personal commitments don’t allow them to work 9-5, 5 days a week? Consider dividing the work between two people who can combine knowledge and keep the business moving forward across the working week with no downtime.
  4. Results-only work environment (ROWE): focused on a team or individual performance instead of physical time spent at the office. High achieving, outcome-focused team members will welcome this type of productive flexibility which allows them to achieve their work to clear, measurable outcomes.
  5. Unlimited leave: a new and very progressive form of flexibility that adopts a “take what you need” to leave. Not too appealing for many businesses, the most sensible approach to thinking about unlimited holiday leave would be to award this workplace flexibility in return for clearly demonstrated business contribution.

How to negotiate flexible hours

My advice to anyone looking to have a discussion with an existing or prospective employer about a flexible working arrangement is to take a planned approach. Define what “flexibility” means for you in terms of an ideal work-life balance, and be realistic when weighing up the pros and cons of what you want to negotiate on, be those office hours, personal time, work location or money.

You should also consider how your proposed flexible arrangement will benefit your employer too. Is the plan temporary or permanent? Will there be any impact on your workflow? How will you complete your work and meet your goals?

A flexible work environment is on the agenda for many companies and their staff. If you would like to find out more about ways flexibility can help drive personal productivity, give you access to more talent and increase your company’s diversity, please get in touch.

Carl Stephen sitting in front of a city window at a desk

Contact Carl to discuss your Supply Chain, Procurement and Contracting recruitment requirements.