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Flexible working needs to be more than an ability to work from home

​We have all heard the term flexible working, in fact a large portion of the businesses we partner with offer some kind of flexible working options to their employees. These options can range from a working-from-anywhere policy to changing hours from the traditional ‘9 to 5’ model. Something that was merely a dream for most white-collar workers is now a reality, so why are employees still feeling burnt out, unhappy or unfulfilled with their work?

Rest, recharge and reset

At the end of 2021, the general consensus across our customers was that they couldn’t wait for a break over the holidays to recharge and reset. This was understandable after many companies had navigated yet another lock-down and the variety of complications that come with this. Not to mention the added stressors of being apart from families and loved ones for an extended period of time. The holidays seemed like the perfect time to focus on wellness and rest.

While most people did get an opportunity to recharge, many of the conversations we had with candidates and clients moving into 2022 were around burnout. Director of Melbourne, Kylie Blackwell says “Clients and candidates haven’t come into 2022 refreshed, most feel that although they had time off, the workload is at an all-time high and time off just makes more work.”.

Conversations in the market

With conversations around the great resignation and what this may mean for the Australian market continuing to take place between our candidates and clients, it is still uncertain what the future of work will look like. What we do know is that the huge talent shortage we have experienced due to closed borders and the spike in salaries has resulted in teams being overstretched or expectations being higher than ever before.

Candidates are either resigning, planning extended leave or even waiting to resign as soon as they are confident enough that they won’t fall pray to the ‘last in, first out’ scenario in a new role.

AccountAbility Director, Yseult d’Estelle Roe says, “Payroll and Accounting teams have been under huge amounts of pressure over the last few years with processing of JobKeeper, JobMaker and a variety of forecasting and re-forecasting. Most teams will have a dedicated person, specialised in one field which results in no-one else in the team being able to take on overflow work to cover them. It would be wise for hiring managers to consider adding one extra headcount to their team that could act as a floater for all the upcoming periods of leave anticipated and then have them there as a back-up for whenever someone inevitably resigns.”

She added “We are also seeing employees that feel the need to overcompensate when they are working remotely by answering every call, message or email within 2 minutes. As leaders we should be asking ourselves, what am I doing to support this person and promote a culture of trust and transparency.”

Flexible working vs flexible work – what’s next?

After hearing this type of conversation on a number of occasions, this train of thought sparked a discussion within our leadership team about how the flexible working model works….until it doesn’t.

Maybe a good place to start is firstly auditing the workplace flexibility effectiveness across more than just the productivity benchmarks to establish whether the flexibility options offered are working for your employees.

Ways to do this could include:

  • An employee engagement poll. Are people actually happier or is work just incorporated into their lives in a more invasive and inescapable way?

  • An assessment of leave days taken and accrued now versus pre-covid.

  • The general level of availability of team members after what were previously considered traditional working hours.

  • A feedback survey to ask the team what the main benefits and downsides of job flexibility have been, so the model can continue to evolve in a way that works for people.

With the last few years catapulting us forward into the future of work, we have seen businesses that never thought they could operate remotely, take on the challenge and succeed. This begs the question, what’s next? And do we need to adapt ‘the work’ to fit the way we are working?

Now and the future

In a poll we conducted on LinkedIn, at the end of 2021, “what do you plan to do when the borders open?” we saw almost a quarter of respondents say that they plan to take an extended break from work and almost 1 in 5 people stated they plan to work remotely, abroad (you can read the full article here). This sentiment is mirrored in the conversations we are having daily with our candidates and clients.

Whilst we can’t predict exactly what will happen in the future, we can build contingency plans now. Contractors and temporary staff can be a quick way to fill any gaps and relieve stress from existing team members.

The market in recent years has been chaotic at best. Now that the international borders are open, we will no-doubt see an impact on talent, however the fight for the top talent will be fierce. It is imperative in this market to have a strong relationship with your recruiter. Someone you trust who has a detailed and expert view of the market, your organisation and your team.

If you would like to discuss any of the themes in this article further, contact the team today.

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