Technology has created a new frontier for office connectivity, allowing for remote work and online meetings in lieu of the traditional face-to-face interactions.  This new workplace environment has allowed for employers to explore options for agile working, where the focus is on productivity rather than location.  Companies like Westpac have fully embraced agile working, allowing for different start and finish times, working away from the office as well as job-sharing, amongst other flexible options that promote a greater work-life balance.

While some companies have shied away from the idea of flexible or agile working arrangements in the past, due to concerns of productivity loss, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to embrace a degree of agile working, with large swaths of office-workers encouraged or required to work from home during the pandemic.  The results have been surprising.  Online meeting tools such as Skype and Zoom have seen increasing use, with great success, allowing teams to remain fully connected during the isolation period.  In fact, the success of remote interactions has been so substantial that the Fair Work Commission has resolved to continue partial remote operation even after restrictions end, through the use of phone conferences and new video trials with Microsoft Teams.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has mentioned that staggered start times and finish times are a major feature of COVID-Safe workplaces, to avoid congestion on public transport at the start and end of the work day.[1]  This will necessitate a level of agile working for most businesses, especially for office-based industries.  As such, this may be the best time for your business to consider adapting to the agile working model and instituting new policies to support it.

The benefits of agile and flexible working are notable.  Research into flexible work arrangements has indicated that employers with teleworking options have less voluntary turnover.[2]  A study at Stanford in 2017 indicated that employees would give up to 8% of their pay for the option to work from home, which financially benefits the employer.[3]  Further reductions in costs arise from a reduced need for office space or supplies, as well as remote work replacing interstate travel.  Lastly, the removal of commute time and increased comfort improves worker morale, reduces ‘burn-out’ and has been demonstrated to improve productivity, rather than reduce it.[4]

Whether agile working will be effective for your business will depend on a number of factors, but more employees are certain to ask about flexible work arrangements after the return to work begins.  A proactive approach with policies and preparation may be the perfect way to position your business at the industry forefront, retain employees and bounce back from recession in the post-pandemic work environment.


Article by IRIQ Law

(c) IRIQ Law 2020 All Rights Reserved


[1] ‘Chief Medical Officer’s press conference about COVID-19 on 5 May 2020’, Department of Health (web page, 5 May 2020), <https://www.health.gov.au/news/chief-medical-officers-press-conference-about-covid-19-on-5-may-2020>.

[2] Choi, Sungjoo, ‘Flexible Work Arrangements and Employee Retention: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Federal Workforces’ (2019), https://doi.org/10.1177/0091026019886340.

[3] Mas, Alexandre and Pallais, Amanda, ‘Valuing Alternative Work Arrangements’ (2017) 12 American Economic Review 107.

[4] Bloom, Nicholas et al, ‘Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment’ (2015), 130 Quarterly Journal of Economics 165.

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