Flexible working is about rethinking where, when and how work can be done, in a way that maintains or improves service delivery for the people of NSW. It's a policy commitment for the NSW Government.
Leaders play a critical role in driving the implementation of this workforce policy by advocating, driving progress and accountability, and role modelling flexible working practices.
As a senior executive, this commitment requires you to challenge some long-standing assumptions in order to rethink work design and business models to use flexible working as a way to realise improved service delivery.
Positive impacts of flexible working
Flexible working provides solutions to many common challenges faced by senior executives:
- Improving employee engagement: Analysis of the 2019 People Matter survey data shows that employees working flexibly tend to be significantly more engaged than those who do not. Employees who do not feel their manager supports flexible working have significantly lower engagement scores than the sector average.
- Improved productivity: NSW government agencies with higher rates of flexible working tend to report lower rates of paid unplanned leave, with leave rates trending down as flexible working usage rates trend up. Employees using flexible working also report they are more willing to go ‘above and beyond’ in their work than those who are not.
The PSC worked with over 31 teams (some entire agencies) in 2019 to pilot flexible working, with the teams designing their own pilots. Every team found that individual, team and business outcomes were either maintained or improved at the pilot's end.
- Driving workforce diversity and inclusion: Flexibility is another way to build an inclusive workforce in the NSW government sector, and attract and retain talented employees. Recruiter surveys regularly highlight the impact that flexible work availability has on employment decisions for potential recruits.
One size does not fit all
Any employee in any role, frontline or office-based, can ask to work flexibly for any reason: the policy commitment is available to everyone, which means that employees no longer need to justify why they might ask, serve any probation periods, or have their eligibility defined by their performance.
However, while there’s no one size fits all approach to flexibility, there’s also no one size fits none. We recommend taking a team-based approach to finding out what sorts of flexibility might suit your branch or division’s work context, provided it can maintain or improve business, team and individual outcomes.
A pilot held across 14 NSW Government work contexts of flex arrangements created by taking a team-based approach showed that teams could build a culture of flexibility and cooperation in as little as three months, while either maintaining or improving outcomes. This was true whether the employees were in office roles or in frontline service delivery.
Senior executives can use our Considering a Flexible Working Proposal conversation guides when assessing requests. While not all requests will work in all work contexts, the NSW Government’s commitment to flexible work asks senior executives to approach any flexible working request from the perspective of ‘how can we make this work?’
A key consideration is ‘will this maintain or improve the quality of the work done?’. Challenge your own biases around what you assume the ideal worker looks like, and instead start from the basis of what task needs to be done, then how might we get there. Teams have developed some genuinely creative approaches, opening up flexibility not thought possible before, yet maintaining their commitment to productivity. All of this can be still done within the current industrial and technological parameters.
Drive flexible working in your agency
Start now by:
- Upskilling: test your current abilities using our leaders self-assessment tool. The accompanying self-paced development guide will help you build on any areas you want to improve.
- Consider a team-based design trial: use our toolkit to design a flexibility trial for your whole branch or division, no matter what its operational context.
- Investigate your agency or divisional capability: Ask your People and Culture team or partners if they are using best practice to advertise, recruit and develop talent flexibly. For example, do interviews have to be done face to face? Are training or work seminars always held on the same day of the week? Are roles pro-actively advertised as flexible, including job share?
- Increase your ability to manage a dispersed team: The PSC has created a guide on the structures, routines and communication disciplines helpful to keeping a remote team on track, and protect work-related well-being.
- Improve your conversational skills: Read our guide to having conversations with staff about flexible working arrangements.
- Join our LinkedIn group: NSW Gov Flexible Working Support provides news on the latest resources and tools, question threads and the chance to connect with colleagues across the sector to share solutions.
For targeted support during the COVID-19 pandemic visit our dedicated Flexible Working during COVID-19 webpage.
Job share: attract and retain talent
The NSW Government supports job share because it has so many benefits:
- For employees, it unlocks access and participation to quality part-time work and career opportunities, while your days off are genuine days off.
- For employers, it creates a larger potential pool of talent, doubles access to skills and knowledge, provides full coverage in a role and increases productivity.
As a sector, it can help us to achieve our goal of looking like the community we serve by broadening the workforce participation opportunities available.
Job share is a full-time role undertaken by two or more employees. Each employee is paid and earns leave entitlements proportionate to the part of the role they complete. They can be at the same level or paired vertically.
Designed and managed properly, almost any role can be job shared. But how do you make it work? Access the PSC Job share factsheets, guides, videos and case studies to learn what it takes to succeed at job share, how to effectively manage job share pairs, and how to foster and encourage more job sharing in your agency.
Job share is a little-known, but highly successful form of flexibility, with employees reporting job share use also reporting the highest engagement levels of employees working flexibly. Explore which roles in your team could be pro-actively offered as a job share and get two brains for the price of one.
- Diversity and inclusion
- Strategic and business planning
- NSW Government key priorities
- Structure of the NSW government sector
- Conditions of employment