Finding flexibility within flexibility


January 23, 2018

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Gone are the days when flexibility in the workplace only meant a choice between working full-time or part-time from a fixed location.

Today, many organisations are challenging the status quo and looking to a comprehensive suite of flexible options for their workforce. Using digital transformation and employing new ways of thinking about how, when and where productive work can be done, is the key to finding the flexibility within flexibility.

The benefits of flexibility are not just improved work-life balance and greater choices for employees. Flexible ways of working also make good business sense.

But delivering true flexibility is not without challenges.

Like many industries, the Queensland public sector is preparing for the new future.

“Our leaders are embracing flexibility and we encourage them to ‘leave loudly and proudly’ … this in turn gives other employees permission to do the same.”

Robert Setter, Commission Chief Executive, Queensland Public Service Commission, says with the right approach, framework and commitment to shifting perceptions, employees can achieve a good work-life blend and flexibility can deliver business benefits.

“The sector’s new Flexible by Design framework is helping agencies find the flexibility within flexibility and is transforming traditional approaches across the sector to work-life balance,” says Setter.

“A flexible workforce, which has the ability to respond to emerging priorities, is essential if we are to meet our customers’ demand for agile, adaptive and responsive services as outlined in the sector’s 10 year human capital outlook and roadmap.

“To meet these future needs, we know we need to attract, develop, and retain the best talent, manage multi-generational workforces seeking different employment experiences and support employees who choose to work into their 70s and 80s.

“Flexibility encourages a more diverse workforce. It allows people at all life stages, lifestyles and backgrounds to be valued workforce contributors.

“Flexibility not only favours those with primary caring responsibilities but allows employees to balance other competing demands, and for people to transition to different career stages. It helps us attract and retain the diverse and skilled workforce we need.

“Giving employees the flexibility they need, while still ensuring our business needs are met, will help create a positive and healthy workplace, improve staff morale, motivation and productivity, and reduce staff turnover, absenteeism and staffing costs.

“Importantly, for the Queensland public sector our ability to provide flexibility helps us maintain a position as an employer of choice.”

The new framework is taking flexibility in the Queensland public sector to the next level by outlining the benefits, reasons and principles behind flexible work, as well as the organisational journey to becoming Flexible by Design.

Moving towards a more contemporary approach is in line with legislation changes to the Industrial Relations Act, which provides a right for any employee to request flexible work. The right is to request, however not an automatic right to the arrangement requested.

The framework is underpinned by three principles:

  1. Achieve better organisational outcomes by being flexible.
  2. Empower employees to find balance, wellbeing and bring their whole selves to work.
  3. Reduce bureaucratic process and increase mobile technology to enable flexibility.

“Agencies are all at different stages of the journey to Flexible by Design, but they are all on their way,” says Setter.

“Our leaders are embracing flexibility and we encourage them to ‘leave loudly and proudly’, and by sharing their commitment to a healthy work-life blend, this in turn gives other employees permission to do the same.

“We are also asking employees to share their flexibility stories. We want to showcase that diversity exits in flexibility, and it’s about giving it a go.

“There are many advantages to working flexibly, such as facilitating exit or re-entry into the workforce, maintaining career continuity and expanding the recruitment net.”

A recent pilot of three Queensland public sector agencies revealed employees want flexibility, choice and work-life blend.

Flexibility should be the norm and a mainstream approach in any organisation.

In many cases, it is about having the right mind set to be able to work remotely and independently, in the same way you would if you were in your base location.

The secret is having a commitment for such an arrangement to work well not only for an employee, but for the business unit and the organisation.

The Queensland public sector has also changed the way it advertises vacant positions on SmartJobs by providing hiring managers and applicants with a range of flexibility options, and moving away from full-time as being the default when recruiting.

Moving away from full-time employment as an automatic starting position means a greater opportunity to engage with talent who can operate across a variety of work hours, arrangements and locations.

The Queensland public sector already has a high proportion of flexible work underway and the introduction of the new ‘flexible’ options is an opportunity to further promote this workplace benefit.

This is just another game-changing initiative designed to disrupt talent acquisition and promote greater inclusion and diversity across the sector.

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