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What is Workplace Flexibility?


What is workplace flexibility?

Workplace flexibility is about when, where and how people work. It is increasingly an essential part of a creating an effective organisation. This article defines what ‘workplace flexibility’ means for an organisation, managers and employees, and highlights some common types of flexible work arrangements.

In essence, workplace flexibility is about when, where and how people work…

There isn’t just one definition of workplace flexibility, because it means different things to different people.

Basically, flexibility is about an employee and an employer making changes to when, where and how a person will work to better meet individual and business needs.

While the basic concept stays the same, it’s the type of flexibility which makes the difference.

Essentially, flexibility enables both individual and business needs to be met through making changes to the time (when), location (where) and manner (how) in which an employee works. Flexibility should be mutually beneficial to both the employer and employee and result in superior outcomes.

What are flexible work practices?

There are a range of creative and practical ways to change when, where and how work is organised:

When people work:
  • Flexible working hours – altering the start and finish times of a working day, but maintaining the same number of hours worked per week (for example, 8am to 4pm instead of 9am to 5pm). It can also mean condensing standard hours per week into fewer days (for example, four days per week at ten hours per day)
  • Part-time work – generally speaking, working fewer than the standard weekly hours. For example, two days per week, 10 days over four weeks or two days one week and three days every second week
  • Variable year employment – changing work hours over the month or through the year, depending on the demands of the job (for example working more hours during busy periods and taking time off in quiet times)
  • Part year employment – also called purchased leave, this means that an employee can take a longer period of leave (e.g. a total of 8 weeks per year) by averaging their 48 week salary across 52 weeks. It’s sometimes called 48/52
  • Leave – varying from leave in single days or leave without pay, to special or extended leave. For example, parental leave, family/carer’s leave, study leave, cultural leave and career breaks.
Where people work:
  • Working from home – also called teleworking, this means working away from the main office (i.e. at home) either full or part-time, and on a regular or intermittent basis. For most people, it’s working from home either occasionally or for an agreed number of days each week
  • Working remotely – in some industries people may work at a different office, or in a client’s workplace for some or all of their working hours.
How people work:
  • Job-sharing – two people sharing one full-time job on an ongoing basis. For example, working two and a half days each, a two/three day split or one week on and one week off
  • Phased retirement – reducing a full-time work commitment over a number of years (e.g. from 4 days to 3 days per week) before moving into retirement. It can also mean becoming an “alumni”, i.e. that a “retired” employee returns to the workplace to cover peak work periods or to provide specialist knowledge
  • Annualised hours – working a set number of hours per year instead of a number of hours per week.