UPFRONT Distrust hampers flexible working

Kiwi and Australian managers don’t trust employees who work away from the office. And equally alarming, workers who report to the office every day don’t like – and gossip about – the flexible working lives their co-workers lead.
The findings are revealed in survey of 600 managers and employees, 402 in Australia and 198 in New Zealand, conducted by Sweeney Research for Toshiba Australia’s Information Systems Divisions (ISD).
Distrustful attitudes are at the heart of the problem with 56 percent of managers and 53 percent of employees admitting that management is “less trusting of flexible workers than those who work solely from the office”. Similar numbers believe that flexible workers are “perceived” not to be working as hard as office-bound employees.
An even greater 88 percent of managers are reluctant to see employees working flexibly “too often”. Slightly less, 79 percent, of employees feel similarly.
Flexible working is also source of criticism and distrust between employees. Both managers and employees believe flexible workers “face criticism from their co-workers, including that they do not work as hard (71 percent) and that they are subject to negative gossip (61 percent)” for not being in the office.
Trust is greater issue in non-flexible workplaces than in flexible workplaces. In the former, 65 percent cite management mistrust and 67 percent cite employee gossip and in the latter these figures drop to 41 and 50 percent respectively.
“Organisations are risking their competitive advantage by not understanding the benefits associated with flexible working,” says Toshiba ISD’s Australasian general manager Mark Whittard. “They are also ignoring the demands of employees, who will soon be at premium according to projections on the tightening workforce.”
The report, entitled Mobility and Mistrust, suggests more than 50 percent of respondents think managers are less trusting of flexible workers and nearly 75 percent think employees disapprove of their colleagues who sometimes work away from the office.
Most managers (75 percent) in non-flexible workplaces said they would be unlikely to let employees work flexibly, even though nearly 50 percent of employees want to.
A main obstacle to the uptake of flexible working is the perceived difficulty in monitoring and supervising employees. That suggests scope for more performance- rather than attendance-based evaluation techniques to increase trust. Sixty-five percent of managers and 59 percent of employees identified monitoring and supervising as common problem.
Too few organisations have policies to support flexible working. For example, only 26 percent of flexible workplaces have policies, and most of these are individual rather than standard across the organisation. Technology is not considered significant impediment to flexible working.
The lack of trust and inflexible work practices revealed by this report suggests that “many organisations are jeopardising their business sustainability by not offering modern approach to work practices”, says Whittard. “The technology is here to support flexible working, but majority of New Zealand businesses are missing out on the direct savings and productivity benefits on offer because they don’t understand how to implement the ‘people’ side of the equation. This includes monitoring and rewarding staff on performance rather than on attendance.”
Dr James Cowley, an independent academic and adviser to the research, believes flexible working offers “up to six times the level of return through the cost savings associated with fewer overheads, parking, technology and recruitment and training costs. It also assists organisations to maintain their business sustainability by retaining experience and loyal employees.
Cowley thinks New Zealand businesses should follow the lead of other countries, and start trusting their employees more. “Flexible working has the potential to revolutionise the workplace and deliver innumerable benefits to the business and the individual. It also addresses the greater societal issues associated with over-urbanisation, such as pressure on transportation and the environment,” he says.

Visited 5 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window