The 9 to 5 workplace is changing. The belief that we’re most productive when we’re in the office is an outdated concept and many companies are successfully breaking tradition and creating flexible working practices to not only attract (and retain their best people) but to also respond to the demands and realities of a modern workforce. Work just doesn’t get done between 9 and 5 anymore. Technology enables us to be hyper-connected, to anyone. Anywhere. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working. What works for some, won’t work for others. Whatever flexible working practices you do decide to implement in your business, they must be built on trust, accountability – and great communication!

What does flexible working mean?

Flexible working gives employees flexibility on how long they work, where they work and when they work. All of these (or just some) things may work for your business. It really depends on how your business operates and the type of flexibility your employees would appreciate the most. Some of the best flexible workplaces in Australia continually evolve their flexible working initiatives to meet the demands of their growing workforce. Australian design and e-commerce startup Envato (voted No. 12 best Places to Work in 2017) have their entire business operations geared to challenge everyday expectations on how a business should be run. They asked themselves “Do our workers need to be in the office and do they need to be in at certain times?” From there, they created a best-fit flexible working policy that has become the centre piece of their culture. Flexible work practices that encourage staff to go and work overseas for 3 months of the year have helped contribute to Envato’s global spread. At Employment Innovations we have implemented flexible working practices. Our teams are able to embrace remote working without compromising on the quality of service delivered. Cloud PABX, ticketing systems and collaboration tools allow this all to happen seamlessly.

Where can I start?

Well, it will depend on how your business operates and if your staff need to be physically present in the office for your business to run efficiently and profitably. If the answer is no they don’t, then ask your employees what type of flexible working would be most attractive to them. Explore what other businesses have implemented and the benefits that came from that. Working from home regularly or starting early/finishing early shifts may work really well for those employees with families or for those who would prefer more flexibility around hours. If the answer is – yes, our staff need to be physically present in the office; then you may consider staggering the working hours and introducing job share opportunities.

It’s vital to ask your staff for their input into what they would like from a flexible work environment because there is no point designing a flexible working initiative that no-one’s onboard with and makes productivity and engagement worse! Start a work group – a team who will also become your ‘flexible working champions’ and who will help ingrain flexible working into your culture. The more involvement that your whole workforce has, the more effective your flexible workplace will be.

Trust and accountability

When you’ve decided on the right flexible work arrangements that will suit your business and you’re ready to execute; you need to make sure that everyone is very clear on how it will work; when, where and how the work will be done. If you’re trusting them to choose when and where they work, they in turn have to deliver – better yet, over deliver on the results. As in any change management process, you’ll need to inform all staff (starting with those who will be directly affected by the new arrangements), train staff/supervisors and update policies, forms and other company information to reflect the new arrangements. Introduce any new technologies that will help enhance communication, transparency and connectivity between all teams (e.g. Slack and Trello) no matter where your teams are working.

Creating an effective flexible work environment may require a big shift in thinking from company leaders. They need to consider the bigger picture and be open to exploring different ways their staff can get the best work done. If executed well, a flexible working environment can bring about higher quality work, greater productivity, stronger team chemistry and high morale. This in turn will attract more people to your business and help you retain your best staff.