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Moving to a fully flexible workforce

The demand for flexible working is growing in New Zealand. Online baby sleep and nutrition consultants, Little Ones (baby & toddler sleep programmes) is one of the latest companies to make the transition to a fully flexible workforce.
 
In most cases the demand for flexible working stems from employees however, at Little Ones the demand was driven by the founders Amanda Snedden and Nicky Barker. This is a move which has not only pleased their employees, but it has significantly reduced business overheads on leasing office space.
 
As a technology-based, global business, flexible working was a fundamental part of the Little Ones business model. However, as their business grew so did their office-based workforce.
 
Now with office-based employees on standardised working hours, business owner Amanda Snedden no longer felt comfortable leaving the office to work from home, wrestling with guilt and feeling as though she had an unfair advantage over the rest of her team.
 
It became apparent that this inconsistent approach to just how flexibly work could be done at Little Ones had led to a subtle shift in the organisational culture that was threatening an unwelcome stray from their deliberately flexible beginnings.
 
This was the turning point when Amanda and Nicky realised that an overarching flexible working model was the best fit for their business. Taking a consistent approach to flexible working with the same ways of working on offer for all.
 
The office that Little Ones leased was also coming up for renewal and they didn’t want to commit to such a significant overhead for another year unless their people genuinely wanted it.
 
Navigating businesses like Little Ones through their transition to formalise flexible working has its challenges, however the key to making flexible arrangements work is tailoring them to businesses, teams and to individuals themselves.
 
Communication is vital. You need to talk to your people, find out what they value, what motivates them and work out how to best use their time to maximise productivity. Only then can a company truly assess what suits each individual, each team, the business as a whole and the customer, to find the sweet spot in the middle.
 
Trust – or a lack of – has a key part to play in what holds businesses back from embracing flexible working. Leaders need to trust in their people from the outset and get really comfortable in the knowledge of what ‘good’ looks like when it comes to their people’s performance. This is only possible if the systems and education is there to create a goal-oriented performance culture. One where performance isn’t something leaders check-in on annually but is something that is discussed between employee and manager on an ongoing, regular basis with clear outcomes set, achieved and re-set. The result? Leaders who are confident that their people are working effectively, no matter where or when the work gets done.
 
Little Ones has been through this process and they now have a flexible working strategy and related policies in place. In June, their Auckland-based team began working remotely some of the time, which is consistent with the way the rest of their global team operate.
 
Offering flexibility makes Little Ones an attractive business in today’s market. LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report reveals that in the past two years alone, there’s been a 78 percent increase in job posts on LinkedIn that mention work flexibility. And in just four years, there’s been a 24 percent increase in the number of people who say flexible work arrangements are a very important factor when considering new jobs.
 
Why? There are two key changes that we have started seeing within the labour market. One has been a change in values of those just entering into the labour force and the other has been the shift in needs of older workers. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey shows ‘Flexibility’ and ‘Positive Workplace Culture’ were ranked a very close second to financial rewards when choosing to work for an organisation for both Millennials and Gen Z.
 
Retirees tapering off their hours but not ready for retirement, are also demanding more flexibility whether being forced to or choosing to. By working flexibly, they are able to continue participating in the workforce while balancing it with their personal life.
 
Technology is the enabler to meet these changes in demand because it has opened up new ways of working, meaning people no longer need to be in ‘the’ office to be productive. In fact, the opposite is true. When set-up correctly the benefits of flexible working are undisputed: increased employee satisfaction, increased engagement and a more agile, productive workforce.
 
Forward-thinking companies like Little Ones are proving that flexible working can not only be done, but it can deliver a consistent approach to working for businesses, even on an international scale. Little Ones has over 20 staff world-wide and Little Ones Sleep Programs have helped more than 100,000 families across the globe.
 
By Kerryn Strong, Co-Founder at Freerange Works