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How to Nail Flexible Working

Yes! You’re just back at work and have negotiated flexible working arrangements…

Congratulations! But what next? How do you ensure success for both you and your employer, and set a trend in your organisation that flexible working is the way forward?

As parents, we need to be flexible. It’s a non-negotiable. Sick kids, childcare drop-offs and school concerts are just the tip of the iceberg. Employers must be flexible too if working parents have any chance of achieving a fairer distribution of household chores in the home and being more present in their children’s lives.

With the rise of cloud-based technologies and constant connectivity, office bound work is becoming increasingly obsolete. While we are seeing bold leadership making positive headway with flexible working policies (in 2016 the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reported 52% of organisations in Australia have one), we want to see more organisations take swifter action and move beyond merely implementing policies.

It seems that fear is behind inaction: either that we can’t be trusted to responsibly manage our own workload, or as a 2018 report by The University of Sydney discovered, ‘…that clients [will] take their business elsewhere if employers embrace flexible work’. (The report also established this fear is unfounded).

The benefits of flexible working to business are as worthwhile as the job satisfaction, health and happiness gained by staff: better recruiting and retention of staff, reduced tardiness and absenteeism, increased staff morale, engagement and commitment, increased cultural diversity of staff, and reduced impact on the environment and infrastructure. The end result is greater productivity, and in some cases revenue, for organisations.

Positive experiences can only encourage organisations to continue the shift towards flexible working for everyone.

Be prepared for give and take

Make sure you negotiate working days and hours that work for both you and your organisation.

According to Hillary Mitchell, mum of two who recently negotiated part-time working arrangements in the construction industry, ‘Read FairWork policy about returning to work to understand your rights before you start your negotiations.

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, but be prepared to compromise.’

Learn from others

Everyone has a different take on working flexibility. The key is for you to find what works best for you and your family. Take the time to learn how others in your company are working flexibly, and pick out the best bits.

Set clear working expectations

Speak with your manager about your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Do these need to be revised if you are working less days or are they still the same? Make sure you align on what is realistic here.

Set expectations about communication and availability

This is critical and too often this expectation is not managed, resulting in a disgruntled employee receiving calls on his day off. Some things to think about and discuss with your manager:

How do you want to be contacted on your non-working days, if at all?

How will work be handed over prior to non-working days?

What happens if an important meeting falls on your non-working/out-of-office day?

What happens in the event of an emergency?

How can we utilise technology for better communication and transparency (eg, could you use a collaboration hub like Slack to connect in real time)?

Set timely meetings

Make sure all team and regular meetings fall on your working/in-office days, otherwise speak with your manager to change times or request that children go to work with you.​

Working from home

If you and your manager are open to it, consider working a regular day (or more) from home. Without the commute time, you can be extra effective and churn through work uninterrupted (in the comfort of your favourite tracksuit pants), be available for childcare or school pick-ups, or schedule that doctor’s appointment.

Keep everyone in the loop

Make sure you communicate the arrangement clearly with your team, stakeholders and others. Additionally, being transparent about yourworking day will strengthen trust from others, set a positive example in your company, and form a desirable impression to external stakeholders that your company is one to work with.

Dad of three Ross McKinnon says it is vital to develop trust with the people you work with so that you feel comfortable showing vulnerability. In his experience as counsel for global law firm Ashurst, ‘If something very personal happens at home with your family and you can be open about it with your colleagues, you’ll find that you’ll get all the support you need.’

Call out unsupportive behaviour

There is a cultural shift occurring as we embrace flexible working, and while many companies are realising that staff are more likely to put in their best effort when they can manage their own time, some workers will remain narrow-minded on this issue. Respectfully call out the comments of colleagues who question the rights of others to work flexibly, reminding them that performance is best measured on outcomes not face time.

Evaluate regularly

Remember, working flexibly is an on-going conversation. Talk regularly to your manager, and be sure to keep the conversation open and honest. And like everything, continually re-assess to make sure the arrangement is working for both you and your employer.

Originally published by the Circle In team

Kate Pollard is a Cofounder of CircleIn and Mama You've Got This Return to Work Expert. Kate is passionate about supporting parents on their return to work journey by providing tools and advice to navigate their return career through all stages of parenthood from pregnancy to return to work and managing the work-life juggle.


Job Title

Return to Work Expert Kate Pollard

Mama You've Got This

How to Nail Flexible Working
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