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Why is Workplace Flexibility a contentious issue?

, March 15, 2013, 0 Comments

Workplace flexibility is a topic of extreme relevance in today’s workplace environment. Technological growth has brought about changes to the way we do business, more women and mothers have joined the workforce and work life balance is what every employee wants!

Workplace flexibility is about when, where and how people work.

We hardly need a formal definition to understand workplace flexibility. Adopting a more accommodating approach to our work style involves nature of our work (customer facing or not), if we need to follow a schedule (get in to work at 9 am or work from the comfort of our study) and importantly whether the organization we work in and the manager we work with supports workplace flexibility.

There are many workplace flexibility practices followed by organizations in varying degrees around the world. These include:

  • Working from home or remotely
  • Part time work or job share
  • Flexi time on your job
  • Partly from home and partly at the workplace

There are many advantages of these arrangements outlined and you can read them here.

Personal advantages for people I know who enjoy workplace flexibility have been; an increase in productivity, money saved on eating outside and travel, spending saved time with family and no time wasted on unnecessary meetings. Overall it is very productive and the quality of the output is heaps better.

Workplace flexibility needs the support of your manager wholeheartedly. If you are a line manager, you need to understand the need for an employee to work from home, employee’s productivity levels and the real need for an employee to occupy ‘bum on seat’. Is it a business requirement for employees to be sitting at their work desks or do you have a personal mindset issue?

The workplace flexibility issue has sparked a debate ever since Yahoo Chief; Marissa Mayer recalled those employees  who work from home. This evidently caused unhappiness among employees. I agree with Marissa to an extent that some jobs do require face-to-face communication and work cannot always be done from home. But, to ban it altogether?

There is a lot being made about face-to-face and collaborating by being at a specific location. I don’t believe that at all as there are ways in which you create that collaborative culture without being in the same location. It might seem a bit tedious at the start but once you’ve established a recurring pattern it is as good as any other method if not better and more effective.

Some tips for those who work from home:

  1. Be organized and work to a plan
  2. Be flexible
  3. Read, learn and experiment with various collaboration tools as you might need a mixed bag at times
  4. Track and report your progress via status reports
  5. Be prompt in getting back to people if you’ve missed their call
  6. Remember, it is still working so don’t mix work and life because the environment is now the same

When there are so many advantages of workplace flexibility, why is it not being embraced enthusiastically?


About author
Aarti Iyer is a Sydneysider who originally hails from Mumbai, India. She has a Masters Degree in Human Resources Management from the University of Sydney,speaks fluent French and is currently working towards her doctorate in Leadership. She is passionate about writing and author of the book “The Story of a Girl, 60Seconds That Changed Life." Her family gives meaning to her life and when not writing or studying; she enjoys travelling and spending time with her husband and young daughter. Aarti shares her experiences in her weblog FlyingBubbles. ...more