Flexible Work Places Are The Future Of Work

Working when it works, and where it suits, is something of a given in the expectations that talented people have as they choose where to work, says Jane McCarroll.

How do you see your future at work? Working nine to five as you have always done?  No, not likely.  Flexible work arrangements are what will drive our working lives in future.

Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) challenge the model of the standard five-day 9am to 5pm working week. FWAs can cover flexi-time, temporary/casual work contracts, working remote or working from home.

We have already seen an amazing example of flexibility in the workplace in the four-day week trial launched by Andrew Barnes, CEO of Perpetual Guardian earlier this year. His aim is to boost productivity and incentivise his 240 staff to maximise the time spent on meaningful work while in the office.

Being paid for five days and working four is pretty world leading in the realm of flexible work models. The flexibility in this trial is also evident based on how employees are working with the trial –  I understand that some are working five days but with reduced hours to manage school-age children.

This trial already signifies that well-being matters and it seems that feedback is positive showing productivity gains all over the place. Two universities are following the trial, evaluating the experiment, and will be sharing research after the trial has run its course. 

I think the four-day week trial speaks to the number one priority for talent development in 2018, and that is the rise and rise of soft skills. Command and control and manager-led teams are out and collaborative, self-organised teams are the future.

 Flexible workforces need collaboration to succeed. There is nothing like building on skills required for the future than by nurturing them in the first place.

From my perspective, I think the four-day week trial is also helping improve gender balance and helping to close the pay gap by making it easier for working mums to work around family commitments.

One panel of the glass ceiling is removed through providing extra family time which can support balancing both professional and family obligations. While extra family time benefits both men and women –  the majority of childcare/ or the responsibility for the children generally sits with women.

There is also a level of stress and time that is associated with the travel to and from work in peak times. I understand that one of the observations from the four-day trial is that flexibility on when, and where, the work can be done, hours that would otherwise be spent in traffic can be spent on productive work. And, living in Auckland – this can be heaps of extra time to spend more productively.

I understand the four day week trial has already done incredible things for employee engagement and how Perpetual Guardian is perceived as an employer of choice. It seems that CVs have flooded into the organisation following the announcement of the trial and I believe the people working there are working hard to make it work as there’s something in it for everyone to make this trial a success.

Working when it works, and where it suits is something of a given in the expectations that talented people have as they choose where to work. Forward focused organisations get this, and there are conversations happening all over the world as to how we make the opportunity to work flexibly and make our teams more productive and give our people more time. 

Good listening and honest discussion can be a great place to start to help create support networks for people in the workplace, so that wherever they are working parties can pull together to create great outcomes. Clear performance measures will be imperative too.

The advancements in technology allowing for remote conferences, webinars and other digital forums will be complemented by face-to-face meetings too.

Our workforce has never been more diverse or dynamic. We are sharing the lunchroom with robots, have four plus generations in the workforce with people coming from all over the world. People skills are needed big time to help us through the future of work.

There are so many things about the future of work that’s exciting. At IMNZ we’re running our Future of Work event series and we will be covering the results of the four-day week trial, along with events on the ethics of AI and automation, and what will drive high performing teams into the future. 2020 is less than 20 months away and our goal at IMNZ is to help individuals and organisations expand their leadership capability, learn for performance and get ready for the future of work.

Check out our website for event details or join us on Facebook and LinkedIn to be the first to know.


Jane McCarroll is the head of marketing and membership at IMNZ. The Institute of Management New Zealand, helping leaders step up and lead since 1946.

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