Nine flexible work practices; five ways to make them work

Nine flexible work practices; five ways to make them work

By Charisse Gray on 30 October 2018 Flexible work arrangements ensure a business attracts and retains good employees.

They allow employers to cast the net wider when seeking ideal staff. And they enable a better match between staffing levels and workload or customer service demands.  

For staff, flexibility makes it easier for them to balance work and individual lifestyle commitments such as family, sport, study, caring responsibilities and health priorities.  Older workers, parents, and those undertaking further education find flexible arrangements attractive. Positive results include reduced absenteeism, and improved staff productivity and job satisfaction.

Nine flexible work practice options

  1. Part-time work: Permanent employment on a regular pattern for less than the normal full-time hours per week. Most common arrangements are normal working hours for fewer days per week (e.g. 2, 3 or 4 days), or Monday-to-Friday employment for fewer hours per day (e.g. 10am to 3pm).
  2. Casual work: Working short but regular hours weekly (e.g. one or two nights per week), short periods of full-time employment (e.g. during peak business periods or relief work when permanent employees are on leave), being ‘on-call’ when required, or working irregular hours weekly.
  3. Flexible working hours: Working hours are varied within a day, week or month, e.g. work start and finish times can be varied. Changes can cater for work demands (such as keeping the business open daily for longer hours), an employee’s outside-work commitments (such as caring for children) and other issues (such as avoiding peak-hour commuting). Most arrangements specify a ‘core’ period when all employees must be at work (such as 10 am to 3 pm) but start/finish times can vary. Other arrangements include working different hours each month, with an employee required to meet an overall monthly average equivalent to normal hours. Annualised hours can be adopted, where the employee works a specified number of hours per year, but the actual amount varies from month to month. This may suit businesses in ‘seasonal’ industries. 
  4. Job sharing: Two part-time employees perform a single full-time job between them (e.g. one employee works Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday and the other works Thursday/Friday). Duties can be shared or different tasks can be allocated to each employee.
  5. Rostered days off: Typically four-and-a-half days per week, nine days per fortnight or 19 days per four weeks are worked. The day off can be agreed in advance or varied according to workloads or an employee’s needs. Some awards and agreements contain provisions relating to rostered days off.
  6. Working from home: An occasional ad hoc or a permanent arrangement. The latter usually involves a split between being at the workplace and working from home (e.g. three days in the office each week and two days working at home).
  7. Compressed working week: Allows an employee to work full-time hours in fewer than five days per week, such as 4 x 9 hour days or 3 x 12 hour days.
  8. 'Purchased' leave: Enables employees to increase their annual leave entitlement in exchange for a pro rata reduction of remuneration. For example, the employee takes eight weeks of annual leave each year instead of four, and receives payment for 48 weeks per year instead of 52. 
  9. Phased retirement: This enables mature-age employees to ease into retirement by reducing their working hours in stages e.g, from five days per week to three, then to two, then to one. This may occur progressively over a period such as five or 10 years. 

 Five tips to make flexible work practices really work for everyone

  • provide the communication tools and any resources the individual job requires
  • educate and engage the support of senior leaders and managers
  • develop a mindset and focus on results and quality of output rather than amount of activity
  • develop regular articles in employee newsletters profiling managers and employees who successfully negotiate flexible work arrangements, and
  • have a designated ‘work life month’ across the business and promote the comprehensive suite of flexible work options. 

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