For the majority of workers in Australia, flexibility is the most sought-after workplace benefit. It’s not hard to see why, writes Natalie Goldman.
Flexible work policies give employees more autonomy. They have the freedom to manage their own timetables to balance personal and family commitments, a choice of when (or whether) they should commute, which hours of the week they’ll work, and what load of work they’re prepared to sign up for.
However, although most Australians are aware of the benefits of flexible work arrangements, they don’t know what options are available to them or which one would suit their lifestyle.
Here are the main flexible working options you should consider:
Flex-time might sound ambiguous — because it is! Essentially, this format allows employees to choose when they want to work based on their personal and professional lives. It could include remote working, shift-swapping, as well as soft starts and finishes. Most of the time there are core hours you’ll be required to work but outside of that you can come and go as you please.
This is a great option for those who like their work as it is but require a highly flexible schedule. However, given you work your hours in your own time, it also requires a high degree of autonomy. So if you’re not the most self-motivated or organised employee, it might not allow you to do your best work.
Compressed working week
A compressed working week is when you work the same number of hours per week in fewer days. Essentially, a compressed work week provides longer weekends or allows for an additional workday off.
Compressed working hours can be great for those with long commutes or for parents needing to care for children. However, it’s important to have a clear agreement in place with employers so that it’s recognised you’re still doing a full-time load. It works really well for those who have long-lead deadlines and don’t have to maintain contact every day but can cause stress in fast-moving industries.
Similar to part-time work, job sharing is when two employees split the work of one full-time role. For most job-sharers, this will look like 2.5 days in the office each with frequent rolling handovers.
Job sharing is a particularly good option for return-to-work mums who can work a half load in the same role they were in before. However, who you job share with is incredibly important and you need to make sure your working styles and personalities are compatible.
It might sound crazy but unlimited leave is an increasingly popular offering and isn’t the “free for all” that might spring to mind. In practice, it means the company leaves it to you to decide what an appropriate amount of time off is. Some companies only offer this on an unpaid basis, but some are starting to offer it on a paid basis too.
Unlimited vacation is a good option for you if require more time to travel. However, if you’re looking to climb the career ladder quickly or get that bonus, then you’ll need to consider how extended time off will impact your career plans.
Remote working is fairly commonplace across Australian workplaces and traditionally looks like an employee performing some of their duties from home. However, it can also be used to work from a coffee shop, a holiday location or from the hospital.
Remote work is a fabulous option for those with long or inconvenient commutes. It can also be a highly effective way for you to manage personal tasks like being home for deliveries, receiving a regular GP check up or being able to support family members.
A results-only working arrangement is one of the newest forms of flexible work to take off. It focuses on measuring performance and output rather than the number of hours spent in the office. For employees who work this way, it generally means they can work the hours they want, where they want, as long as they meet measurable goals.
If you are incredibly KPI driven, then a results-only format could be for you. However, it can be challenging if you haven’t set clear expectations with your line manager or if these expectations change without proper communication. It also may not be appropriate if your industry doesn’t have outputs or outcomes that are easily measurable.
Part-time work is the oldest and most common form of flexible work and it’s been growing in popularity year on year. Currently, 31.7 percent of the Australian workforce is employed on a part-time basis. Generally speaking, working part-time involves doing less than 30 hours of work a week on a fixed schedule.
The best thing about part-time work? Those extra hours can be used to spend quality time with family and friends, on personal development or health or to work on a side hustle. It’s a great option for you if you’re looking to reduce your workload with the stability of a steady paycheck. However, if you rely on a full-time salary, then it’s obviously not for you.
Natalie Goldman is the CEO of FlexCareers.