It’s official – the most wanted work perk in 2019 is Flexible Working Hours. People now place more importance on having the ability to choose their own hours above up-skilling support, health insurance, working from home and time in lieu. This is according to new research by Seek which surveyed over 2,000 Australians. So if you’re not offering it, you’re missing out on the talented people who are looking for it.

Something I often hear from business owners and leaders is that they have a flexible working culture because they have a Flexible Working Policy and they’re open to the concept. However, their employees would disagree. When you take a closer look only a minority of people (if any) in these businesses actually have Individual Flexible Working Arrangements despite wanting them. The reason being that a Policy is nothing but a file in a Shared Drive unless your leaders bring it to life.

Listed below are the 5 key actions leaders must take to embed a culture of flexible working:

1. Be a role model

A powerful way of sending a message of an accepted behaviour in your business is by getting your leaders to be role models. Whether this means they work one day a week remotely, or leave work early to attend a personal event when the occasion calls for it. This shows others in the team that it’s ok for them to do the same. They see that the culture of flexible working is genuine and that it’s more than just words on paper – it’s a way of working in your business.

2. Make flexible working a given rather than the exception

Empower your people so they don’t feel that they need to ask permission to work flexibly. Clearly outline the options that are available to them and set protocols that need to be followed around what is expected of people.  For example, when choosing to work from home, make sure that no-one needs you in a face-to-face capacity, people know where you are, and what your availability is. Empowering people to work through the decision making process on their own also means that you’re demonstrating that flexible working is not afforded only to senior or long-serving team members and that it’s not a luxury, but the norm.

3. Measure performance by outcomes rather than face-time

When it comes to performance, shift the focus to outcomes rather than bums on seats and hold your employees accountable. Ensure that there is an understanding of value and that your employees aren’t out-of-sight and out-of-mind when they’re not in the office.

4. Use technology

Technology to enable flexible working is already well established, so use it. The range of online tools available makes staying connected and being able to collaborate easier than ever. As a leader you need to make sure that you commit to the technology that you’re using and embed these technologies as part of everyday operations in your team.

5. Trust

Just about every leader I speak to who is successfully running a team of flexible workers says their flexible working culture hinges on trust between employee and manager, and the culture, technology and processes make up the framework that supports and enables this trust.  Trust from the outset, is empowering and means no need for micromanagement.  And remember, trust shouldn’t have to feel like a leap of ‘faith’ – you will have done a degree of due diligence to be able to place belief in your people.

Becoming a flexible workplace requires a shift in culture and like any culture change it’s not successful until you change behaviour. Introducing a Flexible Working Policy isn’t enough on its own. You need to talk with your people, update their Employment Agreements and Terms, change the way you look at performance management, upgrade and take advantage of the technology that’s available to place to support this new way of working. Most importantly, you need to make sure your leaders are leading by example.

If your company culture needs a refresh or you would like to know more about what you can do to enhance your flexible working culture then get in touch with the team at Freerange Works on 0800 04 FLEX or email