Breathing new life into work

Article3 min12 May 2017By Marc Pallisco

Flexible work practices, education streams, children, rooftop basketball courts – and a do-good attitude. Millennials are incorporating their ethos and interests into the workplace. 

Remember not so long ago when it was a big deal if an employer offered lunchtime yoga classes to staff? 

Or when only senior executives were allowed company perks such as childcare, gym access and the ability to work from home? 

To retain the best human resource talent today, sophisticated workplaces have to operate very differently from the standard procedures of just two decades ago. 

One of the biggest changes is that staff may not need to be in the office at all. 

Flexible work – allowing staff to perform their roles at home, or offsite – has been one of the biggest trends to affect workplace culture in recent years.

Australians like home work

A 2016 survey by recruiter Hays estimated that 55 per cent of Australians would trade in a fifth of their salary in order to work from home. 

Australia often appears in the list of countries with the world’s longest work weeks.  Being based offsite helps workers strike a better work-life balance, says Hays Australia and New Zealand managing director, Nick Deligiannis. 

“Some want to reduce stress and improve their mental and physical wellbeing by eliminating an exhausting commute. For others, working from home, even one or two days a week, can be the make or break of being able to stay in their job." 

Establishing a company culture with flexible work practices suits employers, too. Office accommodation is one of a company’s biggest operating costs. It can deliver significant savings not to have to allocate each staff member a permanent seat. And over the years employers have found that for certain tasks, typically those requiring deep focus, staff are more productive when they work from home.

That said, employers have also concentrated on improving the working environment for staff as this is the environment where collaboration is inspired. Rooms appointed with cinemas, or table tennis and billiard tables, are becoming a focus point for collaboration. Break out areas are also often furnished with lounge suites, or deck chairs. Barbecues, too, if they are outside.

55% of Australians would trade in a fifth of their salary to work from home

Highrise basketball

A purpose-built office being constructed by Dexus for the Department of Education in Sydney's Parramatta will include, upon completion, Sydney’s most elevated outdoor basketball court. 

Such social initiatives tap into the concept of bringing one's “whole self” to work. 

More than a new age term, the idea means to integrate an employee’s personal and professional lives. The goal is to reduce the rigidity of the 9-to-5 working day and create a company culture that welcomes individuality. 

The idea of encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to work is a relatively new one; it aims to boost engagement and act as a differentiator to help the company retain and attract talent. 

What if your whole self includes children?

Companies have also thought about what to do if your whole self includes a little one. They might provide on-site childcare and play rooms, for example, or contribute to costs transporting children from school. Or even allow the work day to end so staff can do the school pick up themselves.

Dexus has gone a step further and has teamed up with Guardian Early Learning to provide the workers in its offices priority access to childcare in any Guardian centre around Australia, whether it be in their office building or near their home. 

An annual survey by the University of Melbourne, called Life Patterns, released in 2015, said new young adults expected to undertake continuous education over a long period of time. 

The most forward-thinking employers of today offer further education avenues, job training and succession plans – all designed to stop a worker becoming disheartened about future employment prospects. 

It is commonplace, also, that companies pay for tuition and allow a staff member time off to study and obtain a degree qualification. Other education services, related to topics such as mental health and stress management, are increasingly being brought into the workplace, too.

The idea of encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to work is a relatively new one; it aims to boost engagement and act as a differentiator to help the company retain and attract talent

What if your whole self includes children?

Millennials rule

Indeed, being an emotionally mature company which expresses public, positive views, may help to retain (and attract) leaders of the future – the group known as millennials. 

Millennials are those who reached young adulthood in the early 21st century. 

According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, members of this group often put their personal values ahead of organisational goals, and may shun assignments and potential employers that conflict with their beliefs. 

So they are selective about where they will work. But they also have confidence that if they get that selection right, they can make an impact through their work.

“Millennials continue to hold business in high regard: three quarters (73 per cent) maintain that it has a positive impact upon wider society,” the Deloitte report says, pointing out that this figure is unchanged since 2013. 

Millennials remain upbeat about businesses' potential to do well. The survey also finds that young workers think businesses are behaving in a more responsible way. 

“Millennials very much believe that business success is built on a foundation of long-term sustainability rather than pursuing short term profit maximisation,” Deloitte says. “Millennials judge the performance of a business on what it does and how it treats people." 

Diversity Council of Australia chief executive officer Lisa Annese says: “The World Economic Forum predicts that we are on the cusp of a ‘fourth industrial revolution'. Technological, socioeconomic and demographics shifts are transforming the way we work, demanding flexibility in the way individuals, teams and organisations work. We need to grasp the opportunity to be more creative and innovative when it comes to work design. 

“Our members repeatedly request guidance on how they can build leaders' ability to (re)design work and jobs. This is a critical obstacle to mainstreaming flexibility in their workplaces and experiencing the associated business benefits."

The World Economic Forum predicts that we are on the cusp of a ‘fourth industrial revolution'

Read on for more insights

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