Flexibility in the modern workplace

by Jo Sully21 Aug 2017

By Jo Sully, Vice-President & General Manager, American Express Global Business Travel, Australia & New Zealand

Advances in technology over the last 20 years have revolutionised how we work. The nine-to-five culture of people commuting to and from an office to carry out eight hours work is declining. This trend is reflected in studies which find that millennials demand flexibility around when and how they work.

PwC’s ‘NextGen’ report notes that with millennials, “flexibility in where they work and how much they work is a key driver in satisfaction,” with 64 percent of millennials indicating that they would like to occasionally work from home. Constant access to high speed internet and the proliferation of devices across which we work – from smartphones, to tablets and ultra-powerful laptops – means that we are working harder and more flexibly than ever.

Working flexibly, and working from home, is not for everyone but it does offer some significant advantages. In the past, many talented professionals with young families, unable to meet the requirements of nine to five work, have had to put in place either expensive child-care arrangements or have one parent become a stay-at-home mum or dad. A flexible approach to work hours can go a long way to improving the careers of young parents and ensure that great talent is retained.

At GBT, we saw the myriad advantages that flexible working brings. In Australia, we have approximately 500 employees, 75 percent of whom work from home. The policy has been in place for over five years and has resulted in us having one of the best staff retention rates in the sector, with an average tenure of eight years. We find this policy is particularly attractive to those with young families and also millennials who want to work differently from generations before. Talented millennials can enjoy the benefits of flexible working while not sacrificing development in their careers, often working with customers globally from the comfort of their own homes.

While there has been an investment in technology and systems required to be able to provide flexible working options, our experience to date has justified the expense. We are particularly pleased with our retention rates at a time when there are concerns over attracting and retaining talent in the travel management sector. Furthermore our tenure is well above the national average, with Australian typically staying in a job for 3 years and 4 months across all industries, according to the Department of Employment in 2014.

Our employees, millennial or otherwise, have made special mention of how they appreciate certain aspects of flexible working such as flexible hours and working virtually, and what this enables. This flexibility has led to real improvements in work-life balance, and allowed many to study, exercise and spend time with family when they want, as opposed to when they can. For many people, this contributes to a continued feeling of being valued, engaged and motivated in their work on their own terms.

The world of corporate travel is about building and maintaining long-term relationships based on trust. Being able to retain staff who are respected and valued by our customers is incredibly powerful.

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is a joint venture that is not wholly owned by American Express Company or any of its subsidiaries (American Express). “American Express Global Business Travel,” “American Express,” and the American Express logo are trademarks of American Express and are used under limited license.

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