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Research shows that flexible workplaces experience lower staff turnover, lower absenteeism, higher employee satisfaction and increased productivity. In view of this, I would suggest that ‘flexibility’ isn’t a buzzword. It’s the future.

a future that works’ Workplace Wellbeing report, found that an overwhelming 83 per cent of Australian employees believe flexible working hours are important for their wellbeing.

We discovered through our research that a flexible workplace means employees can achieve a work-life-balance which not only makes life easier, but also allows people greater opportunities to balance their career with their family commitments, whether it be caring for children or ageing parents.

Employers and HR leaders are increasingly realising that there are clear benefits for their organisations’ productivity and profitability from fostering a motivated and dedicated workforce.

I know flexibility might seem like a new-age concept, one that perhaps is only driven by radical HR thinkers in ‘start-ups’. It isn’t.

I interviewed leaders from Australia’s best in class organisations and profiled these outstanding organisations in a future that works’ latest report, Best in Class. Through my interviews, I found that best in class organisations are rapidly adapting and enabling their people to achieve no matter where and how they work.

I was particularly impressed to discover from Todd Batley, Chief Executive AECOM, that AECOM focuses on flexibility. As just a few of its many initiatives, AECOM removed start and finish times from all employment contracts, and conducted a Flex Day trial which gives 900 participants a day off each month.

One of the most interesting initiatives I discussed with Todd was how AECOM offers term-time employment contracts for staff who prefer to work only during school time, so they can have time to spend with their children during school holidays.

Cotton On Group is also showcased in our Best in Class report. One of their initiatives, which People Operations Manager at Cotton On Group, Jo Barr, explained is their ‘Annual Leave Fun Fund’. This global initiative reflects the company’s values of people taking time out to be with their families, having a life outside of work and returning to work refreshed. Staff who have taken their maximum annual leave entitlement are placed into a fund ballot, where the first-place prize is a $10,000 travel voucher.  

Our Best in Class report contains many more examples of the flexibility initiatives Australia’s leading organisations have implemented. These initiatives are practical, and you will be able to emulate these types of initiatives in your organisations with ease.

The lesson for HR is that flexibility is the new normal. HR leaders need to adapt at pace to help people achieve no matter where and how they work, to balance life and work.

The notion of flexible workplaces should not frighten us.  It is simply one of the most effective ways to achieve what we all want – happy, connected, trusting and productive workplaces that retain the best talent.

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