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Flexible work practices key to holding onto holiday vibe

Monday, Jan 16, 2017, by Sheryl Blythen

Many Kiwis will be heading back to work this month, inspired by their summer break to improve the balance between work and life in 2017 “Holidays are a fantastic reminder of the things we love to do, whether that’s spending time with friends and family, travelling or leisure activities,” says Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie. “Too often we start the year determined to carve out more time in our lives for the things that are important to us but slip back into allowing work to take over a few months down the track.” The danger with that, she says, is we end up resenting our job, and our productivity and wellbeing suffers. OECD data gives New Zealand a 6.4 score for work life balance, ranking us 28 out of 38 nations surveyed, ahead of Australia and the United States but behind many of the European nations. But better work life balance is not impossible to achieve – it just requires commitment to flexible work practices from employers and employees, says Cassidy-Mackenzie. “Compressed hours might be a good option – for example four extended days and one half day to accommodate family or other personal commitments. Taking their son or daughter to swimming one afternoon a week might be the difference between a conflicted parent and a contented parent with more focus for their work.” “Why have staff sitting in traffic for 10 hours a week just so they can be at work during specific hours if it’s not strictly necessary? Allowing someone to start and finish earlier can make a huge difference to travel time, and leave employees with more daylight hours for family or friends.” Cassidy-Mackenzie says the business benefits of flexible working are well-documented – research shows that organisations that offer these practices are perceived as more attractive employers, increasing their available talent pool,  it improves productivity and focus, and encourages staff loyalty and commitment. Businesses can spend less on leasing office space and carparks, improved staff retention reduces recruitment and training costs and clients are better served by employees who choose to start earlier or work later in the day. Here are some tips from Diversity Works New Zealand to help employers and employees to make 2017 the year of working flexibly. Tips for employers
  • Consider all the different flexible work arrangements you might be able to offer staff, including allowing employees to choose their start and finish times, reduced hours, work-from-home days, working longer days during busy periods and shorter days in off-peak times, or job sharing or job splitting.
  • Create a culture that supports flexible working – support for these practices needs to come from the top and it should be evident in company policies. Set clear expectations of what’s expected of staff and measure output, such as client satisfaction or task completion, rather than presence in the office.
  • Give staff the equipment they need to work remotely – mobiles, laptops, cloud or network access – or just permission to do so.
  • Consider having core hours everyone must be at work or meeting-free days to allow for flexibility within teams.
  • Provide awareness training to managers and other staff about the benefits of flexible work practices and manage their expectations around the availability of their colleagues.
Tips for employees
  • When requesting flexible working arrangements, be prepared to outline the benefits to the company and how you will ensure the new arrangement will not negatively impact your company or colleagues.
  • Inform colleagues and clients when you are available and how best to contact you.
  • Use your out of office messages on your email and phone to communicate when you will return calls or emails. Use professional language – “I’m out of the office today” is preferable to “I don’t work Thursdays”.
  • Be prepared to be flexible about new arrangements – business needs or special events such as a conference or company meeting may require you to be at work on a day you would not normally be in the office.
  • If you are working from home, take responsibility for ensuring your internet speed and bandwidth is sufficient for work tasks
  • Handover important tasks and information if you are job sharing or going to be away from the office for a period of time.

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