Australian employers should be bending over backwards

Posted April 8, 2014, by Julia Watters

With the internet making life more mobile, it’s no surprise that the typical work arrangement should follow suit. This seems to be the case across the globe, although a recent report by recruitment agency Randstad found that Australian workers have a low amount of flexibility in the workplace compared to our Asia Pacific neighbours.

Steve Shepherd, Group Director of Randstad, believes ‘Australian workers are calling out for more innovative and flexible working practices, and it’s disappointing to see Australia lagging behind much of the region when it comes to implementing these practices.’

With 79 per cent of Australians saying that they don’t have the option to work remotely in their current role, it appears we are still set in our old ways, especially when we compare this to the 59 per cent of Chinese workers who enjoy the flexibility of working remotely. ‘With flexible working arrangements and a good work–life blend becoming more important to people, businesses which continue to overlook this could find themselves losing their top talent,’ Shepherd warns.

A job well done


The Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman has worked towards achieving more flexible working conditions for Australians, with the new National Employment Standards introduced in 2009. Of the ten entitlements encompassed in this initiative, employees maintain the right to request flexible working arrangements, such as job sharing or adjusted work hours, to assist them in certain circumstances. The right to request, which applies after 12 months of continuous service, is available to:

  • Parents with children who are of school age or younger
  • Carers
  • Employees with a disability
  • Employees who are 55 years old or older
  • Employees experiencing violence in the home or who are providing support for a family member in a similar situation

While these are the areas so far covered in the Fair Work Act 2009, flexible work arrangements don’t necessary have to be limited to those with difficult circumstances at home. As we all strive for the perfect work–life balance, employers are recognising how a more relaxed approach can actually result in a more motivated and productive workforce.

Arna Jade is the Managing Director of business planners IMARI Consulting, and she takes a flexible approach with her staff as she recognises her own need for adaptable work options: ‘Sometimes I was more creative on the couch, other times I needed an office environment, and realised that if I worked well like that, so too would the people who work for me’.

By hiring people who are passionate and loyal to her company and cause, Arna is able to offer a trusting and nurturing work environment. She also provides a range of workstations besides traditional office desks, such as couches and a ‘lawn bar’, so that her employees can mix things up when they choose to work from the office.

This blended approach to staffing and work environments is where a large number of workforces within the Asia Pacific are heading, proving that Australian employers such as Arna are far ahead of their local counterparts who make up the inflexible 79 per cent. But it’s not all bad news for Australians: the same Randstad report suggested that 86 per cent of organisations are planning to move towards a mixed workforce of ‘permanent, contract and virtual staff members’. And with a substantial move towards blended learning and the expansion of online study, it’s only natural that our ensuing employment should follow suit.

So if you’re wondering how your future working routine is going to look, then feel free to imagine a plan that suits you; chances are that you will get a lot more say in the final design. After all, if you can complete a degree all from the comfort of your lounge room through studying online, who’s to say you can’t do your job the same way?

Julia Watters

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