Opinion: Ten ways businesses can work flexibly


Prior to business, I studied astrophysics. One insight I still refer to from my studies is that rigidity in any system leads to waste, always, and flexibility leads to efficiencies. In today’s world I don’t think we can afford to waste any longer.

Long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016 – a 29 per cent increase since 2000, according the World Health Organisation.

However, in the wake of Covid-19 various types of flexible work have emerged to, hopefully, combat these statistics:

1. Flexy hours – you pick when and where

Deloitte Australia recently ditched the normal work week and is allowing staff to choose when and where they work. “Founded on concepts of trust, balance, wellbeing and the importance of personal connection” it seems from the outside that Deloitte is focused on having an outcome-focused culture.

2. In the office 8-5, but plan the day as you want

Some organisations still require employees to be in the office every day, 8-5. But, they are able to plan their day as they wish. Want to pop to the gym for a workout in the middle of the day or need go to a doctor’s appointment at a random time? No problem. As long as employees deliver on measurable outcomes, they are free to manage their tasks as they work for them.

3. Rostered work of in-office and WFH

Many larger corporates introduced rostered work, where teams spend some days in the office, and some working from home on set days of the week. Sceptics might question whether “work gets done” those WFH days. You cannot expect your employees to trust you if you don’t give them trust in the first place.

4. The 4-Day Work Week

The four-day week is a reduction in the workweek from a standard 40 hours to 32 hours for the same pay and benefits. It gives employees ownership of their time and measuring performance on outcomes rather than time spent at the office.

On the back of Perpetual Guardian’s trial and implementation in 2018, high-profile trials from Microsoft, Unilever and Kickstarter, there is now also a 4 Day Week Global petition which encourages more widespread workplace disruption for better work-life balance. Policymakers in many countries are also picking up on this flexible work model, including Finland, Japan, and most recently the US with Congressman Mark Takano putting forward a bill to the US Congress to introduce a 32-hour, or four-day workweek.

5. Condensed work: 4 lots of 10-hour days

While the condensed work week does include 10-hour workdays, this is only for four days. This gives those who like working longer days, or feel they can’t reduce to 32 hours, the “regular” 40 work hours, but with the benefits of three days to focus on their wellbeing and family.

6. Job-sharing – 2 people doing 1 role

Job-sharing is often used as part of or after an employee goes on parental leave. But it can similarly be used to offer employees the flexibility to work reduced hours and share the stresses of one role if that suits them better. With an ageing workforce it could, for example, allow highly-skilled employees that are working past the “retirement age” mark to still add value as well as give them more time for themselves.

7. Off-peak hours

It is crazy to think that the 9-to-5 routine means our road infrastructure is used at 100 per cent of its capacity only a third of the time, resulting in an astronomical waste of resources, time and productivity. In addition, the roads we are building now are already too small for the current traffic let alone 10 years from now! Giving employees the ability to come into the office at off-peak hours means they are able to reduce time spent sitting idle in traffic – and could also mean less pressure on house prices as living close to work becomes less imperative if the commuter-hour-pressure is taken away.

8. 7-days on, 7-days off

Multi-day shift work is often used by nurses, doctors, miners and other front-line workers. Taking away from the obvious issues health workers (for example) are faced with, the concept of “sprint” work in itself can be appealing and isn’t a new concept. At a time where salaries alone are not a strong enough motivator for staff, the lifestyle provided by being able to have a full week off every second week opens up a world of opportunity for work-life balance.

9. One hour of paid me-time each day

In a push for making health and wellbeing a focus in the workplace, some organisations have introduced dedicated time for “me-time” for employees. Southern Cross, for example, introduced a mandatory one-hour lunch break in the middle of the day and Les Mills encourages staff to exercise for an hour at whatever time of day works for them.

10. Summer hours

More organisations recognise how important it is to balance work with play and encourage 4.5-day weeks during summer. Vodafone made headlines with their policy of leaving the office at 1pm on Fridays during the summer so staff could spend more time with their families, getting active and recharging.

Employers need to be flexible when it comes to flexible work as what works for some might not for others. What links all the different approaches, however, is that the main objective is to both increase productivity while reducing stress and burn-out. So, what is your approach to working flexibly?

– Pierre Ferrandon has over 10 years of international workplace experience in helping businesses create innovative workplace strategies and adopt new ways of working. Since the pandemic, he has been using his expertise in distributed workforce management working at DB Interiors to develop sustainable solutions that enable employees to work at their best and organisations to reshape their approach to real estate portfolio to maximise flexibility, sustainability and user experience.

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