Are you prepared for the flexible work imperative?

Co-working, activity-based working, distributed workforce… These emerging terms remind us that the world of work is changing fast. How prepared are our businesses to make mobile work succeed? Could telework or remote work achieve high performance results in your workplace?


Sourcing good advice about how to approach telework and mobile work as an organisation has, until recently, been quite difficult. The focus of freely available information tends to be on individual flexible work arrangements, rather than on providing strategic advice for organisations.


The Workplace Gender Equality Agency recently created a suite of flexibility toolkits for executives and managers, not just employees. Their work was in recognition of the direction of workplace changes, in favour of flexibility:


“As traditional ways of working are disrupted, CEOs and executive leadership teams will increasingly need the skills to re-imagine the way work gets done, and the leadership skills to implement new and more flexible ways of working.”


As lead author on this project I was thrilled to bring a more coherent approach to flexibility.


The toolkits outline for the first time ten organisational capabilities that make flexibility effective, in all its forms. This is a welcome development for organisations that realise that the future of work is unlikely to look like the traditional workplace of today.


As noted by the Agency, work is increasingly less likely to be tethered to the places and times that have been important in the past. New technologies are enabling greater flexibility, while globalisation renders time zones less relevant.


Much of the work that drives our knowledge-based economy will be specialised, and more employees will view their work as connected with their own individual purpose. Different industries and employers will experience these changes to greater or lesser degrees.


Perhaps your organisation is thinking about a strategic approach to flexibility. In which case, you could ask the following questions:

  1. Leadership – Is there a willingness to take a strong lead on flexibility?
  2. Business case – What is the business case? Do the benefits clearly outweigh the costs?
  3. Management capability – Are managers experienced at flexibility? Willing to learn?
  4. Flexibility strategy, vision and policy – Is your approach coherent and does it enable flexibility?
  5. Employee experience – Are your employees finding that flexibility works well for them?
  6. Technology and Infrastructure – Do your IT and physical structures enable flexibility?
  7. Client and supplier experience – Are clients and suppliers well managed so that flexibility isn’t an issue?
  8. Results management – Is there a culture of outcomes-based performance management?
  9. Learning cycle – Are there clear processes for active learning?
  10. Change management – Is the move to flexibility well resourced?


Some leaders will think that technology and infrastructure should play a larger part. Technology and infrastructure tend to be the ‘obvious’ parts of a complex picture, but in fact they can be the least useful if a range of other capabilities aren’t enabled. The role of technology and infrastructure is minor compared with the other nine capabilities that make a difference. WGEA tested these capabilities in consultations with experienced organisations and they landed as just right.


Lastly, the words of Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, CEO of Mirvac are an interesting reflection on the importance of flexibility today:


“Workplace flexibility is a strategic imperative for organisations. The way we define it needs to change from being a ‘working mother’ solution and it needs to be broader than just ‘part time’ work.”


Just as well we have a better package of resources available to start making flexibility a strategic focus.


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