Why flexible workplace strategies are the right fit for small business
As a small business, the idea of special programs to support employee flexibility in the workplace may seem daunting. Yet flexible workplace strategies can drive absenteeism down and foster loyalty.

Here are some of the ways flexibility can benefit your small business and strategies you can employ to make a flexible workplace a reality.

What is a flexible workplace?

The idea behind increased flexibility on a workplace level is to create a work-life balance that works in favour of your small business and your employees. It usually means tailoring hours and the approach to day-to-day work to suit the people involved.

Flexibility might mean allowing employees to work-from-home or remotely or endorsing parent-friendly hours.  And it may include things such as reduced contact hours, job-sharing, time-in-lieu and sabbaticals.

Offering flexible options maximises productivity through reducing the tension between work days and your employees’ lives outside the office. It creates a focus on quality work by giving workers the opportunity to perform with fewer distractions and/or reduced pressure from competing responsibilities.

Why choose a flexible approach to work?

A 2015 study by the Diversity Council of Australia found flexibility is a key driver of employment satisfaction.   1 in 5 employees had considered leaving their current employer due to a lack of flexibility.

Researchers at the Judith Lumley Centre found 1 in 3 parents are experiencing significant conflict between their working lives and parenting duties, reducing focus and creating stress.

The Victorian government’s Better Work and Family Balance Grants Program was designed to help small businesses to address these issues. The side effects were a greater ability to retain staff, increase morale while strengthening team building and attracting a higher quality of new employees.

Head of Research at Beyond Blue, Nick Arvanitis, believes in the power of good strategies for stress reduction.   “Many of the strategies that promote wellness also prevent stress. Increasing an employee’s control is one key example,” he explained.

“This can be achieved by giving employees a say in how they do their work or manage their time, and providing greater flexibility through start and finish times and when people take breaks.”

What strategies can you employ to offer flexibility?

From sole operators through to small business, anyone can make flexibility a part of a successful business strategy.

Ideas that make a significant impact include:

Rethink office space

Consider reducing rent and other overheads by encouraging remote workers, introducing work-from-home days and hot desking at co-working centres in lieu of having a physical office space.

Timetable to suit lifestyle

Investigate part-time, time-in-lieu and job share arrangements to encourage quality over quantity during work hours. By working with your staff to help them timetable work and life together, you can help keep them focused on work better by reducing the impact of conflicting priorities.

Support new ways of working

Use technology as an ally to flexibility. With technology solutions such as Ximble, you can immediately identify workers and rostering needs plus it easily allows remote workers to check in for time tracking purposes. Use online project management tools, virtual conferencing and Skype to stay connected no matter where your team may be.

Offer choice to your employees

Another vital component is designing workplace flexibility to suit those it impacts the most.

“People want choice, and they’re happy to ask for it,” shared Catherine Heilemann, a former human resources manager turned self-employed business coach.

“They will choose one small business employer over another and design their own self-employment journey around flexibility because it matters that much. The best way to find out what your employees want is to ask them. By using something like a survey, you can quickly find out what your people need,”

By working together to provide the right tools, carefully considering your options and allowing your employees to have a hand in designing the strategies you’ll use, you can take your small business to the next level with flexibility.

Great people are essential to running a successful small business. But how do you find great people? And once you’ve found them – what can you do to retain them? Download your copy of the SEEK small business guide.