Majority of workers want to work remotely 30% of the time.

Australian employers are the least open to flexible working arrangements of anyone in the Asia Pacific region, with 79% of local workers saying they are unable to work remotely in their current position.

This compares to 59% of Chinese workers, 62% of Indian, 64% of Malaysian and 65% of workers in Hong Kong SAR and New Zealand, who are unable to work remotely.

While the Federal Government continues to encourage local businesses to improve their flexible working options with initiatives such as National Telework Week, the latest World of Work Report by recruitment and HR specialists, Randstad, shows 40% of employees still rate their current employer’s efforts in creating and adopting flexible work options as average or poor.

The findings also show Australians are craving a more flexible approach to work, with most stating their ideal working arrangement would involve spending 70% of their hours in the office, and 30% working remotely.

Australian workers are seeking more flexible and innovative work practices, and it is a shame to see that Australia is actually lagging behind a large portion of the region when it comes to the implementation of such practices.

Having a good work-life balance is becoming increasingly important to people. As a response, flexible working options need to become more of a priority for senior management and HR decision-makers in Australia to improve employee engagement, boost performance and productivity and foster loyalty. If businesses continue to overlook this shift in priorities, they could open themselves up to the loss of their top talent.

There are a number of ways companies can increase flexibility within their workforce. This could be through varying start and finish times or hiring employees on a part-time basis; however, the crux of it is for business leaders to be continuously supportive and understanding when their staff have personal commitments or require flexibility in how they work. 

The standard 8:30-5:00pm office hours aren’t the only time employees can prove their productivity and effectiveness. In order for flexible working arrangements to work effectively, and prove beneficial for companies, mutual understanding, trust and clear expectations must be established and an agreement between both parties on when tasks must be completed. Employers may find a notable increase in engagement, productivity, loyalty and an improvement in performance particularly from employees who crave and value flexibility.

Most concerning about the slow uptake in Australia is many employers already understand the benefits which flexible working strategies have on a business – with 41% believing it boosts employee engagement and satisfaction, and 27% agreeing it assists in the attraction and retention of top talent.

Despite this acknowledgement, a major barrier to the solid adoption of these flexible working arrangements is a shared concern amongst management about employee productivity. To stamp out apprehension and ensure productivity and engagement levels positively benefit from flexible working practices, business leaders need to have guidelines and a framework in place to foster virtual teamwork and collaboration. This could mean embracing video technologies such as Google Hangouts or Skype to collaborate, particularly when working on team projects.

Blended modes of work
As workplaces continue to evolve, flexibility will drive a variety of employment modes – with 86% of organisations planning to manage an increasingly blended workforce of permanent, contract and virtual staff members.

In increase in diversified conditions within the post GFC labour market are already being experienced. In order to better accommodate peak business periods and reduce overheads, Australian businesses will progressively turn to temporary or contract based individuals, allowing them the flexibility of scaling up and scaling down when required. This approach will allow companies to manage transient staff and budgets during peaks and troughs with reduced risk in times of uncertainty within the business.

Managing a multi-generational workforce
Australian businesses also need to manage the wide-ranging expectations of a multi-generational workforce.

Workers from each generation have different preferences and motivations, so employers will need to implement policies which are adaptable for a range of groups and individuals. Gen Y and Gen Z are want to maintain a healthy work/life balance, Gen X will continue seeking part-time employment to cater for family needs and Baby Boomers will look for varying work hours and phased retirement options to preserve work satisfaction and social interaction.

Accommodating different types of workers is the key to successful flexible working
In today’s digital and economic age, increased flexibility in the workplace is an inevitable and important aspect of talent management. If Australian companies want to remain competitive, retain their top talent, improve job satisfaction amongst their employees and thrive in both strong and uncertain economic times, the implementation of flexible working arrangements needs to become a real priority this year and in the future.