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Flexible work arrangements – our experience so far

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There has been a fair amount of media around fully flexible work arrangements and a much broader idea that people can now work from anywhere in the world, so should we let them. Here are some of the things learnt along the journey into fully flexible work arrangements.

The Flexibility Deal

At the start of last year, we implemented a fully flexible work arrangement for some new positions we were hiring for. The basic conditions of the positions were along these lines:

  • Work from home
  • Work from work (hot desk available)
  • 20 – 25 hours per week
  • Work whenever you want, as long as the deadlines are met etc…
  • Casual employment
  • Come to the office for at least a couple of hours each week to catch up face to face.

Great right? We learnt immediately that we needed to implement a number of systems in order to manage workloads, expectations (internal and external) and set some ground rules – particularly around communication.

We started with a rather traditional professional services environment, everyone is visible and present when they were working. You could walk down the hallway or run into them during the day to catch them up on what is happening or what needed to happen. With these new arrangements it meant that they weren’t always around but that didn’t mean they weren’t working either.

3 things that surprised us:

  1. Our people like coming to work. We filled the two new roles with mums working from home and found they enjoyed coming in to the office to work too. Both have a drive of more than 1/2 hour each way to come to work. This was a surprise to us, we thought if they didn’t need to be in the office, they wouldn’t want to be.
  1. Every hour is a good hour. We might be lucky, we are getting the best out of our flexible staff. We have a big focus on getting things done, and this results focus takes away from the “clocking hours” mentality. Every hour they put in is a good one.
  1. Communication is hard. Before we set up some clear communication systems, straight forward emails and phone calls were a challenging way of communicating clearly. It works, it is just harder when compared to a quick face to face chat – especially when you are demonstrating something technical. Needless to say we have overcome this through better systems and more priority around face to face communication when they are in the office.

The uncharted territory

All of our flexible work arrangement positions at the moment are casual employees, this means they get paid when they work. Which for the current positions where there are fluctuating workloads, it makes a lot of sense.

Then for fulltime employees what if they want to transition to a more flexible arrangement? We mean professionals who expect the consistency of a salary but the flexibility of casual employee. The challenges identified so far are:

  • Full time vs Casual – can you be full time or part time for that matter? How do you manage sick leave, down time, etc.? What happens to sick leave? If you have 168 hours in which to complete 38 hours of work, when are you sick?
  • Deadlines – unfortunately we have deadlines, we will always have deadlines – do the deadlines negate the flexibility?
  • Contactable – we are a service business, which means our clients need to reach you or want to reach you sometimes often, most of the time when they are at work. What is a reasonable place to start when it comes to when you are and when you aren’t contactable?
  • Expectations – is there a minimum or maximum amount hours we should expect out of any day during the week? How dynamic should we expect our employees to be, client expectations change, can we ask someone to cancel their hair dresser appointment to work? Can we ask that someone does a 10-hour day?
  • Communication – We can’t stress this enough, anyone in this role needs to be a very good communicator – the more senior the role the more challenging it is. I know some of you are thinking –there are so many tools out there where you can video chat or screen share or collaborate, but you doing any of that means you compromise when you work, you bring structure to the role, you bring defined working hours.

If you have ventured into flexible work arrangements for you or your employees we would love to hear your experiences.

If you require any business advice please contact us.

By Barrett Campbell, Manager – DFK Crosbie

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Specialist accounting and business advice, knowledge and experience for businesses and professionals.


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