Flexibility in the workplace

Posted by : Judith Bright on August 5, 2019 1:29 pm

Judith BrightHow many of us have been brought up to think the more hours we work in a week shows commitment to our jobs and higher levels of productivity. Yes, of course you need to put in the hard work to see results, but is “hard-work” directly related to how many hours you put in?

Working long, tenuous hours and being expected to be at the beck and call of your job 24/7 only leads to one thing – a burnout. This is becoming a world-wide occupational phenomenon according to the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

The traditional working week

The traditional working week in New Zealand is 40 hours. The standard 9am-5pm job equates to the average person working 90,000 hours during their lifetime. Being in the office eight hours a day, Monday to Friday has remained the norm for such a long time – but the lines have been blurred somewhat with access to emails on our phones, laptops sitting on kitchen tables and taking phone calls outside of office hours. So is this actually the most productive and effective way to work? How about the idea that employees could be more productive and have a higher level of job satisfaction from working 32 hours per week instead of the standard 40?

When Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services company, implemented the four-day work week last November it hit news headlines across the globe – so are they on to something here?

A four-day working week

Perpetual Guardian is a highly-documented example of how a commitment to flexibility in the workplace can be applied (which of course wouldn’t work for all workplaces). But it’s an interesting case study – that shows real results.

Researchers from the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology conducted a study into the 32 hour work week using data gathered from Perpetual Guardian’s initial eight week trial. The trial involved 250 employees throughout 16 offices in the country – and confirmed that the four-day work week made workers happier, less stressed and significantly more productive.

Perpetual Guardian are now six months in to implementing the 32 hour work week. A recent article published by Forbes details the process they took and the outcomes they’re seeing.

Time is a precious resource in today’s busy world

After discussions with some of my clients, it appears some local companies here in Waikato are open to a more flexible way of working. Especially in circumstances where a company is unable to offer a higher range salary – they’re prepared to offer flexibility instead.

It also seems that younger generations within the workforce place importance on flexibility in the workplace and being able to work remotely. Millennials currently amount to approximately 35 per cent of the global workforce, and a recent millennial survey conducted by Deloitte found that flexible work was of high importance to millennial employees (second to training and development). Millennial employees also want to take advantage of new technologies to be able to work from anywhere, any time and have more flexibility with their working hours.

To implement a flexible way of working, there does have to be a high level of trust between employees and their managers for this to be a viable option for a business – and it certainly isn’t something that would work for every industry, but if a business is able to offer flexibility in the workplace it can be an extremely appealing company attribute when attracting potential employees – and can help contribute to retaining top talent.

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