Is your workplace flexible enough to allow a senior member of staff to send this kind of message?
‘I work flexibly at Telstra. I’m sending this message now because it suits me. I don’t expect you to read, action or respond out of normal work hours.’
This is the email signature of Troy Roderick, Telstra’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion. Signs are that while it might still be a tad unexpected, it’s on the way to becoming the norm. And for good reason!
According to Australian research conducted jointly by Bain & Company and Australia’s powerful Chief Executive Women lobby group, juggling our career aspirations and family growth and needs is entirely possible - as long we think of workplace flexibility as a norm and not an exception to the rule.
In this 2015 report, The Power of Flexibility: A key enabler to boost gender parity and engagement, it’s emerges that Australian organisations have built good foundations for flexibility within their workforces. But key challenges still remain - especially if we want workable options for both genders.
As it turns out, workplace flexibility isn’t just a woman’s issue. Data shows that men are demanding work flexibility too. The primary reason is that they want to play more active roles as caregivers, and rightly so. If we really aspire to equality within our workforce at every level up to senior leader, it’s crucial both genders should be equally considered and enabled - with flexible work practices.
Gone are the days when employees worked 9 to 5, Monday to Friday and only within the same four office walls. The incredible transition of the digital age, and our new capacity to run operations and communicate 24/7 from anywhere with a wifi connection has changed everything in most of our working communities - and across the globe.
WESTPAC CASE STUDY – IT’S TIME TO LOVE BANKS
The 2015 report highlights Westpac Banking Corporation as a standout company. They offer a range of flexible work practices, as part of their longstanding commitment to flexibility.
Those of us in smaller businesses might debunk their efforts as 'big business with bigger budgets’. But there is no denying the teams at Westpac have done their research and are implementing change for reasons that resonate in small business too. There are many takeaways that smaller teams could easily adopt and weave into their own culture with tremendous benefit.
Brian Hartzer, Westpac Group CEO, nails it. ‘The way I see it, flexibility helps people achieve their full potential by removing barriers to success. If people have the flexibility to manage their personal commitments, they are more likely to bring their whole selves to work every day. And that means they’re more likely to do their best work and exceed customer expectations.’
Like the inside scoop? Here are five key practices Westpac leaders are required to implement, to facilitate flexibility:
- Make yes the default answer;
- Put flexibility on the agenda at team meetings;
- Understand the flex options and resources available;
- Raise flexibility as a key benefit; and
- Role-model flexibility.
The culmination of Westpac’s thinking is in their WorkSMART initiative. This permits employees to choose how, when and where they work. It’s a transformative program charged with overhauling Westpac’s corporate environment, technology, tools, systems and policies. They’re set on creating a culture where work is no longer a place you go, but something you do and achieve.
BENEFITS? WE THINK SO!
When you encourage employees to reach their full potential through flexible work practices, the capacity to generate a positive environment and boost employee advocacy and productivity is proven to follow.
It seems Westpac aren’t the only bank with the smarts on this. As Craig Meller, CEO of AMP points out, ‘normalising flexible work opens up new sources of talent and new ways of operating, and this is key to being an innovative and agile business.’
The small business sector has much to gain by following suit, and actively encouraging the uptake of flexible work practice arrangements. It’s well worth considering how we can make such practices work for our teams – and that includes the whole team, not just those with kids Others have family and other commitments of a different nature.
Be sure to underpin your new thinking with clear policies and practices.
If you lead a culture that’s supportive and respectful of flexibility, and make it the norm rather than the exception, only good things can come, both now, and later!