Flexible work arrangements for small businesses

flexible work

In a recent survey of more than 1000 knowledge workers across Australia, almost all said they wanted their employer to be flexible about where they work. And 43 per cent said that they would leave an employer that doesn’t offer flexible working. 

As a result, businesses of all sizes have adopted flexible working arrangements, acknowledging that in a competitive, candidate-driven job market, employers that offer flexibility will stand a much better chance of attracting and retaining top talent.  

Understandably, small businesses that work within constrained budgets and with smaller workforces often find navigating the world of flexible work complex. However, innovation can thrive where constraints exist, and there are ways for small businesses to successfully manage flexible work arrangements if they remain open to change.

Flexibility doesn’t have to mean working from home 

For small businesses, reviewing the level of flexibility that is appropriate for your organisation is the first step. Flexible work doesn’t have to specifically mean ‘work from home’.  For employers that can’t offer remote working, flexible start and finish times, job-sharing, extended hours but protracted weeks, or split schedules may be suitable alternatives.

In fact, there are at least 13 different types of common work schedules, each offering a different set of working hours or patterns. Most workplaces, regardless of size,should be able to identify several suitable work schedules for their business and industry. 

Consider the work that must be done in person

Consider the business operations that must be done face-to-face and those that can be done remotely. It’s likely that many tasks fall into both categories, with some beneficial to team morale or creativity and others to productivity. Objectively reviewing your operations may unearth opportunities to be more flexible with your business structure andworking hours.

Review how you measure productivity 

Many businesses harbour concerns about productivity, measuring it by presence rather than outcomes. To mitigate this, get really clear on project outcomes, deliverables, and work objectives. Set reasonable goals, deadlines, and work tasks, and be honest, clear, and transparent about expectations. Doing this will enable business leaders to achieve their goals or targets while granting team members space to choosehow and when the work gets done.

Maximise the time you’re together 

Being intentional with the time your team spends together can reduce the need for employees to work alongside each other five days a week. There is nothing more demotivating than coming to an office and reverting to sending emails and messages or doing admin tasks that could be managed from an alternate location at any time of day. If there are opportunities to be hybrid or flexible, business owners should review how they structure workdays to best drive value for team members and maximise interactive face-to-face time.

Understand your legal requirements as an employer

Employees can request flexible working arrangements if they meet specific criteria. They must have a minimum of 12 months’ tenure with your organisation (including permanent and long-term casual staff) and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Parent or caregiver for a child of school age or younger.
  • Caregiver for an elderly or someone with a disability, medical condition, mental illness.
  • Those aged 55 or over.
  • Those with a disability.
  • Those dealing with family or domestic violence or providing care or support to someone facing family violence.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working, and small businesses should feel empowered to tailor flexible work policies to suit their unique operational needs. For employers, being open to positive change, focusing on essential tools and technologies that facilitate remote work and communication, and consulting team members is a great place to start. Small businesses are often excellent at allocating their limited resources, and this practice puts them in good stead to embrace flexible work policies where possible.