For Michael Stanley, the HR Director of Vodafone Australia, it’s clear that Australian workplaces still have a long way to go regarding flexible working practices. But, as other countries around the world implement and trial successful models, we are perfectly positioned to learn innovative lessons around engagement and productivity.
Sometimes it surprises, disappoints and saddens me to come back to Australia from overseas – with regard to our approach to flexible work. Our practices remain quite immature compared to companies in New Zealand or the UK.
Generally speaking, the Australian workplace simply hasn’t adapted as quickly as other workforces around the world to flexible working.
Learning from tried and tested formulas
The question of implementing successful, flexible and remote work practices in this technological age is one that CEOs, MDs and HR managers ask themselves frequently. And there are models in place that they can refer to. Look at the literature around best-practice office utilisation, for example. Experience now suggests that we should aim for between 130 and 150 per cent occupancy in different office environments.
Contingent on that format is the acknowledgement of a couple of key issues: one is that people do work flexibly. People don’t sit at their desk all day, every day, so creating and dedicating a space for one person all day, every day, is unproductive in terms of maximum economic value. And the other thing is that people can be fully productive and contribute high performance without sitting at one desk from nine to five.
Australia’s flexible future
A lot of it comes down to the traditional work structures within which we operate. During the 90s we saw massive improvements in productivity across Australia, but I don’t think we’ve moved further than that point, structurally or philosophically. There have been tweaks since then but there hasn’t been a fundamental rethink.
Australia hasn’t really looked to the structure of the workplace as the driver of productivity. The good news is that we’re now in a position to pull some of the best and tested practices from around the world, and leapfrog these ideas to transform our workplaces. We can make them more flexible, as a driver of both productivity and engagement. This satisfaction will strengthen the bond between employer and employee – or it certainly will for Vodafone and its people.
I’d like to think that over the next decade, Australia will move to the front of the pack of the flexible workspace as we draw from learnings from around the world. As a nation we are pretty good at looking at what’s worked elsewhere and implementing that at home. Because we don’t have to fundamentally create a new model for flexible working, we just need to work out what models are already being applied with success and then roll them out across our various states and territories. It’s all about figuring out the approach that works best for you.
Photo credits: Unsplashed, Vodafone