Adaptable work practices are strongly in demand in New Zealand and around the world, says Jason Walker.

Are flexible working options popular with New Zealand workers?

Most workplace flexibility strategies are adapted to suit family or lifestyle demands, such as allowing an employee to leave an hour early one day a week to attend a course or watch a child's sporting event or enabling a mature-age candidate to work part-time.

Do many companies offer flexible work options?
More than 80 per cent of New Zealand employers surveyed for our Hays Salary Guide in June said they do. Of these, the most common practices are flexible working hours (79 per cent), part-time employment (74 per cent), flex-place (48 per cent), flexible leave options (30 per cent), job sharing (15 per cent), career breaks (13 per cent) and phased retirement (8 per cent).

In our experience, employers are not offering these strategies instead of a salary raise but as part of a benefits package and to ensure the work/life balance of their staff. Having said this, salaries are remaining fairly stable, except to secure candidates in areas of skill shortages, so benefits can help differentiate one organisation from another.


Is there movement of workers from big organisations to small ones in pursuit of flexible working options?
Not necessarily. We do, however, see people moving between industries in order to gain access to better flexible working options. For example, retail or hospitality employers cannot always offer the same flexible working options that professional services, public sector or IT employers can.

Does the lure of being able to dictate one's working hours encourage people to start their own business even if they face long hours initially?
Flexible working options are not always a realistic expectation when you start a new business. But yes, longer-term this is a goal for some.

Why do some bosses like staff to be in the office from 9am to 5pm and more even if they are not productive the whole time?
It could be the culture of the business or the nature of individual job functions. But in general our definition of a workplace is changing. Telecommuting and digital nomads are becoming more accepted and technological advances have led to a wider acceptance by employers that working from home or an alternative location is a viable alternative to centralised workplaces. According to our 2012 survey of New Zealand employers, candidate attitudes towards teleworking also continue to change, with almost a third indicating they would not work for an organisation that didn't allow at least occasional teleworking.

What examples of flexible working are you seeing in small businesses?
Telecommuting is slowly increasing. Digital nomads are also growing in popularity and offer even more flexibility. Rather than a home office, portable technology means they can conduct their work virtually from anywhere. Flexible working hours are also common and typically involve staggered start and finish times and accrued time, whereby an employee works fewer hours one day and makes up the time over the remainder of the working week. Part-time employment is also popular with people preferring it to balance work and personal commitments.

Jason Walker is managing director of recruitment agency Hays.