The Premier’s policy commitment to flexible working means we need a new approach to plan and implement flexible working; one that supports both managers and employees alike. Until now, most flexible arrangements have been made at the discretion of manager, on a case by case basis, and generally to accommodate individual personal circumstances.
The policy commitment is that all roles across the government sector can be flexible on an ‘if not, why not’ basis, provided we maintain or improve service delivery to the people of NSW. While it is the responsibility of CEOs to implement this policy commitment at the agency level, for it to work effectively, as a manager you will need to consider how to implement it in the context of your team.
The commitment means that:
- anyone can seek a flexible working arrangement, for any reason;
- managers and teams need to consider how their services will be maintained or improved as part of their decision making;
- it is generally better to have this conversation as a team – and the whole team ‘owns’ the arrangements. This prevents it being purely a manager’s responsibility; and
- these conversations can start from a place of ‘given the work we have to do, what flex might be possible, can we make this work, and if we can’t, why not? Then – what else might be possible?’.
This toolkit is designed to help you as a manager bridge the gap between the policy commitment and making it work for your team. It will help you to set up a step by step flexible working trial and check if it is working. It will build your ability as a manager, although you will not have to become a flexibility subject matter expert to do it. From your team’s perspective, it will build a shared sense of ownership of the trial, and the opportunity to re-think where, when, how and by whom the team’s outcomes are achieved.
Here’s what you can expect from this toolkit:
- Knowledge: information on how to have a whole team work flexibly
- Tools: sample templates and resources for managers
- Evaluation: recommended evaluation survey questions to check how your team is tracking.
This toolkit is built around the finding that people, when provided with some flexibility and autonomy in their working lives, continue to deliver, and often even deliver better, for their organisation. It is also based on the assumption that given the right support, people can challenge – and change – their beliefs about their work, their colleagues and their organisation.
Why this approach works
Throughout 2019, we partnered with a wide range of teams and branches across the government sector to road-test this approach to flexible working: where flexibility is available to everyone in a team, while ensuring service delivery standards were either maintained or improved.
We worked with road maintenance crews, civil lawyers working in Aboriginal communities, traffic emergency patrol teams, health infrastructure planners, child protection workers, tow truck drivers, human resources professionals, human services policy experts, health leaders and environmental policy experts.
Evaluation of the first stage of pilot teams indicated that using team-designed flexibility did not compromise client service or personal performance. Teams reported that they produced sustainable results and stronger ways of working. An upwards trend in self-reported productivity, wellbeing, perception of leaders and team cohesion was also consistent across the teams.
Our sector-wide data supports these findings, showing that employees who work flexibly:
- have higher employee engagement, wellbeing & job satisfaction
- report stronger motivation to go above and beyond for the organisation
- use less unplanned leave
- report increased team connection
- report a strengthened commitment to their team, and their agency.
We have developed this toolkit to help you to take the same approach so you can meet the policy commitment, and address a few typical business problems along the way (for example, planning for an ageing workforce, supporting people returning from medical or parental leave, managing an office move that may present logistical commuting challenges for significant sections of your workforce, etc).
“Workplace flexibility has changed my life, it has given me the chance to be a parent and a full-time worker, I feel happy, refreshed, content at home and in my place of work...”
Employee, Grants Division, Legal Aid NSW
Templates to get you started
This is a template you can use if you choose the leader-led approach. Sample content is included for guidance.
This guide is designed for those who choose to run the team-based approach.
This is a presentation designed for those who choose to run the team-based approach.
This is a plan where you can easily document the flex work options of each team member and can be reviewed at any time. Can be used for either the leader-led or team-based design approach.
These are suggested draft communications to get you started communicating to your team during the trial period.
These are suggested survey questions you can use to measure how the new arrangements are tracking for your whole team. We recommend loading them into your usual survey tool, and ensuring responses are anonymous.
Resources for managers and employees
These are common questions and answers that teams have at the beginning of any move to team based flexible work and are helpful to circulate.
This tip sheet provides guidance for managers on day to day team management, and how to manage for outcomes.
This tip sheet provides key points on how to keep your team together when working flexibly. It’s only for teams where individual employees work elsewhere for around 2 days per week. Use the guide for dispersed teams if the number of days elsewhere is higher.
This tip sheet provides guidance for managers to distinguish between job performance and flexible work performance; and to set expectations about both.
We sincerely thank our colleagues from the Department of Communities & Justice, the Department of Planning, Industry & Environment, Legal Aid NSW, the Clinical Excellence Commission, Health Infrastructure, eHealth, and Transport for NSW for taking the time to participate in the team-based design project and for providing input into this toolkit.
Claire Stewart, Principal, Inclusion Collective; Dr Graeme Russell, Principal, Strategic Research and Growth; and the NSW Public Service Commission.
Throughout 2019, 837 people across 14 different work contexts joined the pilot, from office based and front line service delivery environments. A detailed analysis of the team-based flexible working pilot has now been completed and available in the pilot evaluation report. This evaluation provides information on how the pilots were designed, the methodologies used, and a detailed analysis of why this approach works.
The results revealed teams could effect cultural change in as little as three months, while either maintaining or improving individual, team and customer outcomes. The experience of flexibility improved in all pilots, and each participating team made the trial business as usual practice.
Working flexibly: resources for employees
Flexible teams: resources for managers
Implementing flexibility: resources for people and culture
How to implement flexible working
Building leadership support for flexible working
Change plan to implement flexible working
Flexible working policy guidance
Job share resources
HR manager skills for working flexibly
Flexible working awareness and engagement sessions
Flexible working communications toolkit
Shifting perspectives on flexible working
Typical misgivings about flexible working
Behavioural insights trial
Championing job share in your agency
How to advertise flexibility
Measuring and evaluating your agency’s progress
Using workforce data
Flexible organisations: resources for leaders