Managers mistrust flexible workers

AUSTRALIAN managers don’t trust their employees to work away from the office and are denying them opportunities to work flexibly, while those who work away from the office are often subject to criticism and corridor gossip from their colleagues

AUSTRALIAN managers don’t trust their employees to work away from the office and are denying them opportunities to work flexibly, while those who work away from the office are often subject to criticism and corridor gossip from their colleagues.

These are the findings of recent research into flexible working, which took in 600 managers and employees across Australian and New Zealand organisations.

It found that more than 50 per cent of think managers are less trusting of flexible workers and nearly 75 per cent think employees disapprove of their colleagues who sometimes work away from the office.

Furthermore, 75 per cent of managers in non-flexible workplaces said they would be unlikely to let employees work flexibly, even though nearly 50 per cent of employees would like to, if allowed.

The survey, Mobility and Mistrust, commissioned by Toshiba (Australia), found that a main obstacle to the uptake of flexible working is the perceived difficulty in monitoring and supervising employees, indicating scope for greater use of performance rather than attendance-based evaluation techniques.

“The results indicate many organisations are risking their competitive advantage by not understanding the benefits associated with flexible working and by ignoring the demands of employees, who will soon be at a premium according to projections on the shrinking workforce,” said Mark Whittard, general manager, Toshiba Information Systems Division.

James Cowley, an independent academic and adviser on the report said that flexible working offers up to six times the level of return through the cost savings associated with fewer overheads and also assists in business sustainability through the experience of loyal staff.

“Australian (New Zealand) businesses need to start following the lead of other countries, and begin trusting their workforces in order to remain ahead,” he said.

The survey found that lack of trust may be in part due to the use of old fashioned performance evaluation techniques. The difficultly in monitoring and supervising employees was the most commonly cited disadvantage of flexible working, and workers in large organisations find it particularly hard.

If managers cannot see their employees are working and rely on traditional ‘clock on, clock off’methods of monitoring staff performance, this indicates that organisations need to embrace metrics that assess workers based on performance rather than attendance, according to the report.

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