Aussies in search of work-life balance are turning to the internet to juggle their nine to five, with more than half the nation (51 per cent) willing to forgo a percentage of their pay in exchange for greater flexibility in their working arrangements.
New research released today from the Telyste Digital Workplace Study 2017 reveals the majority of Australian organisations (84 per cent) have systems in place that allow their staff to work remotely with more than half of the businesses (56 per cent) that allow their staff to work from home, doing so because it increases employee productivity.
Experts say the growing -flexi-work' movement is spurred by widespread access to fast broadband powered by services over the nbn™ network, as employees are now able to join meetings via video conference, have stable access to their employer's cloud servers and share large files from home.
Social researcher and generational expert, Claire Madden says:
'Australia is a lifestyle-driven nation and the flexi-working movement assisted by access to the nbn™ network has untapped potential for a number of Australian workers; helping them to pursue meaningful careers, whilst also prioritising personal commitments. Whether you're climbing the corporate ladder, returning to work after maternity or paternity leave or entering the workforce for the first time - access to fast broadband helps Aussies with their flourishing careers while also maintaining work-life balance."
'The highest uptake of the new nine to five is expected to fall across millennials who are accustomed to playing, learning and working anywhere, anytime. Millennials attraction to flexi-working schemes is deeply ingrained with practicality at the root; with almost half (45 per cent) reporting they're more proactive working from home. Gen Z will further drive the flexi-work movement as they step into the workforce, being our most technologically literate and connected generation."
Key insights on the flexi-work trends:
Flexibility vs. pay: Flexibility trumps pay when it comes to employee values with over a quarter (28 per cent) of Australians willing to earn 5 per cent less for significant flexibility and one in sixteen happy to forgo 20 per cent of their salary – the equivalent of a entire day's pay in exchange for being able to work remotely.
Flexi-working is shaping employment of the future: The appetite for flexi-working is unquenchable with the traditional approach of working in an office five days a week preferred by a mere 35 per cent. Work and employment structures will continue to be redefined by the flexi-workforce as employers embrace connectivity and use flexibility to drive productivity and staff retention.
Gen Z and the 2020 workforce: This generation is estimated to have over seventeen jobs across five careers during their working lives, tapping into online channels like YouTube, social media and blogs to generate multiple revenue streams. Unlike their predecessors, Gen Z will value job mobility and flexibility above stability, having grown-up being immersed in the rapidly changing digital technologies, unprecedented social networking and global connectivity.
Professionals leading the flexi-way: IT and marketing professionals are leading the flexi-working movement with almost a quarter (24 per cent) of staff from these roles embracing remote working options, followed by sales representatives (20 per cent) and accountants (18 per cent). Middle management and customer service representatives are slower to embrace remote working options (12 per cent and 10 per cent respectively) .
Question: What is a flexi-work agreement?
Claire Madden: With over eighty per cent of Australian organisations now having at least one system in place to allow staff to be mobile workers, the term flexi-work agreement refers to a workplace agreement that enables staff to work at home one or more days per week. There is a growing flexi-work movement spurred by widespread access to fast broadband powered by services over the nbn network, as employees are now able to join meetings via video conference, have stable access to their employers cloud servers and share large files from home reducing the everyday need to be physically present in the office.
Question: Can you share with us an idea of a flexi-work arrangement?
Claire Madden: One of the great benefits of the flexi-work arrangements is that they can be tailored specifically to meet the needs of each individual. There are many different ways Australians can adopt flexi-work schemes, however in my experience one of the most popular ways is for employees to work from home during dedicated times, such a specific day each week, or certain hours of the day. This allows employees the chance to work remotely from home, allowing them to save time on their commute and also enables people to juggle their family and personal commitments. Whether it''s being involved in the school run or making sure they are home for an early evening dinner, working from home just a day or two a week can help workers attain that ultimate work-life balance. This has become increasingly popular with mothers returning back to work after having a child and makes the transition back into work far smoother.
Question: How are women the real winners with the flexi-work movement?
Claire Madden: The new nine to five facilitated by increased connectivity via the nbn has a magnitude of benefits for women; we¹re seeing employers become more flexible and agile as the traditional work week evolves. Research shows that the main reasons that women feel rushed or pressed for time is in trying to balance work and family responsibilities (*ABS, 2016). With access to fast and reliable Internet enabling workers to connect with colleagues, stakeholders and customers in an efficient and streamlined manner, there is no longer the emphasis on working the traditional nine to five work week; meaning females can achieve their career goals without forsaking their personal lives. For mothers, flexi-working makes it easier to juggle the conflicting priorities that come with pursuing a career while raising a family.
Question: Are you surprised that more than half of the Aussies surveyed are willing to forgo a percentage of their salaries for flexi-work?
Claire Madden: It may seem surprising that Australians are willing to forgo their salaries for a flexible working arrangement, but research has shown that employees place a high value on their work-life balance, not just their pay. Australia is a lifestyle-driven nation and work-life balance is essential when it comes to juggling your career with personal commitments. Over a quarter of Australians are willing to earn 5 per cent less for significant flexibility and one in sixteen are happy to forgo 20 per cent of their salary - the equivalent of an entire days pay in exchange for being able to work remotely.
Question: How does a flexi-work agreement benefit the employer?
Claire Madden: The flexi-work movement is growing, with research showing the traditional approach of working in an office five days a week is only preferred by 35 per cent of Australians. This means employers must continue to redefine their work structures to remain competitive and continue to attract talent. Working flexibly has been shown to increase productivity in workers and help retain staff, offering a healthy and happy work environment for many Australians.
Question: How does allowing staff to work from home, increase employee productivity?
Claire Madden: Fleix-working can boost employee productivity as it empowers staff to focus on getting certain tasks and projects done without office distractions when working from home. Saving on the commute also assists workers in attaining a better sense of work-life balance. This equal balance between your career and personal life has positive impact on employee's health and wellbeing, as they have time to decompress and unwind from their day at work and can take the time to be physically active.
Question: What rules need to be set around working from home?
Claire Madden: I suggest setting daily work goals and keeping to a structured time schedule to ensure you are using your time out of the office in an efficient manner. It's also important to keep in touch with your colleagues, employer and clients whilst working from home and communicate your expectations for the day - thanks to increased connectivity via the nbn it's easier than ever to stay connected via Skype calls or email.
Question: Do you have tips you can share for increasing productivity when working at home?
Claire Madden: When working from home it's crucial to set yourself ground rules to make sure you are working effectivity and productively. Everyone will have different methods that work for them, but it's worth bearing in mind the following;
Set yourself working hours and clear breaks
Have a dedicated work area and ask friends or family to steer clear
Communicate well with your colleagues
Set yourself goals for the day making sure you keep on top of your to-do list
Question: What are the generational differences in employee expectations when it comes to flexible working arrangements and work-life balance?
Claire Madden: Almost half (45 per cent) of Millennials admit they feel more proactive working from home, and this generation, along with Gen Z, are expected to drive the biggest uptake of flexi-working; being accustomed to learning and working anytime, anywhere and from multiple different devices. Growing up immersed in rapidly changing digital technologies, social networking and global connectivity these generations value job mobility and flexibility above stability, and it is estimated that they will have seventeen jobs across five career paths during their working lives. Gen Z will also be working in many jobs that don't even exist yet, and will continue to innovate and embrace new opportunities to generate multiple income streams from online channels like YouTube, social media and blogs. Access to fast and reliable broadband enables this group to generate income from multiple revenue streams - whether they're blogging, selling goods online or embracing freelance opportunities; there is a world of opportunity awaiting for this globally networked, digitally savvy andwirelessly connected generation.
Interview by Brooke Hunter