Flexible work options rise in value as jobseekers look to cement work/life balance

The option of working from home has skyrocketed in value over the past 12 months

Flexible work options rise in value as jobseekers look to cement work/life balance

In the fight for talent, the offer of flexibility has emerged as a top deciding factor for jobseekers, new research has found. The data by New Zealand telco 2Degrees put flexible working arrangements as number three in the priority list, behind workplace culture and a competitive salary.

The survey found that among employing business decision makers, 19% believed flexible working from home arrangements were the most important advertising factor to attract good talent – a 6% rise compared to before last year’s lockdown.

Reflecting on the change in employee expectations, 2Degrees chief people officer Jodie Shelley said the desire for flexibility has impacted the way businesses operate.

“We found that having some kind of work from home or work from anywhere offering has bumped up the list of priorities from fifth place to third,” she said.

“Key talent are now saying, what is there in terms of flexibility and may I work from anywhere or work from home? It’s starting to blossom as a key benefit that people are seeking out.”

Pre-pandemic, trust was the issue holding many employees and employers back from trialling flexible work. Workers didn’t feel they would be trusted to do their jobs productively from home, while managers also lacked confidence in allowing staff to work remotely. However, the pandemic forced both sides to tackle those anxieties head on, sparking a vast acceleration in workplace trends.

Read more: How to recruit for long-term success

Shelley said at 2Degrees, the recruitment process for call centre roles has been converted into a virtual assessment centre, using AI technology to streamline the process – something that was unlikely to have happened for several years without the nationwide lockdown. The challenges of the last 12 months has forced the HR team to think differently, especially around how they recruit talent.

With the borders remaining closed to migrants, New Zealand, like Australia, is facing a significant talent shortage in certain sectors like technologies. It has prompted organisations to focus efforts internally, invest in upskilling, and recruit from outside of the major cities. Shelley said 2Degrees has become far more creative around how they promote job opportunities.

“We have gone out proactively and produced a whole campaign in the market for technology people, getting them excited about our 5G initiatives that are coming up and trying to get them interested in 2Degrees as a brand,” she said. “We know how important it is to build a really strong pipeline because we can't rely on new migrants that come to New Zealand with amazing technology skills.”

With various different roles across the business’s call centres and tech development side, Shelley said the business won’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to flexibility going forwards. They’ve encouraged employees to return to the office three days a week, but requests for flexibility are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Read more: Borders aren't boundaries: Hiring talent in a remote work era

She acknowledged that the purpose of the office will vary between personalities and job types. But whether staff are in the office or at home, they’re striving for an equal playing field. Setting up a dedicated call service for workers who have dealt with a difficult customer is one example of how the HR team is creating a safety net for remote staff. They’ve also implemented training and guidance from Lifeline to encourage staff to seek support whenever they need it.

“Our call centre guys do an incredible job serving our customers but not all the calls they take are easy and that can take a toll on our people,” she said.

“I think those sorts of things we really have to be serious about and we have to tailor support to the needs of the role and of the individual. It’s about trying to accommodate everything that they need with this new hybrid way of working.”

Despite the devastation of COVID-19, the research highlighted positive trends too. The study found 53% of business decision makers said COVID-19 had a positive impact on workplace culture, with 60% saying that the lockdowns have helped them to see a more human-side to their employees.

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