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Just how important is workplace flexibility?

By Jack Campbell | |6 minute read
Just How Important Is Workplace Flexibility

The pandemic pushed the desire for flexibility to the forefront. We’re now at a point where it is one of, if not the top consideration for employees.

Recognising the importance of providing flexibility and structuring policies around this will help organisations to attract and retain workers, according to one expert in the space.

“I think organisations and individuals realised because they were forced into it that there was a major benefit to not necessarily be in the office every day of the week from day to day,” said Stef Shoffren, modern workplace lead at Avanade.


“Now, that does vary from industry to industry. Some of our clients and organisations that we work with definitely are seeing a push to get people back into the office. But a lot of organisations are looking at, there was some real work/life balance and actual employee benefits that they were able to derive out of not forcing people to come into the office every single working day.”

Avanade’s People First. Or People False studies have delved into this, uncovering just how important it is to provide these sorts of benefits to employees.

Mr Shoffren continued: “We did some research and we went out to around 2,000 organisations globally, and a few hundred of those were in Australia.”

“And we started out asking people, ‘Do you believe that you are actually a people-first organisation?’ And the response we got to that was about 99 per cent of people globally and actually 100 per cent of organisations in Australia said, ‘Yes, we believe we are people first’.

“But then we went and asked more probing questions. We asked things like, ‘Do you provide an equitable level of access for people working from home to information, data, applications to those people working in the office?’ And that’s where we started to find there was a significant gap between organisations that said they were people first and actually followed through and organisations that said they were but actually didn’t have the ability for people to have a complete equivalency of access when they weren’t working in the office.”

This research was, therefore, able to identify whether a workplace truly cared about the flexibility and wellbeing of employees.

“We ended up splitting organisations into two types: ones that we called the pioneers, and these are organisations that are doing well in the market and that we believe are exhibiting the good behaviours, and we also have the pretenders … The organisations that are saying they’re people first, but actually they’ve got some work to be done to address that,” Mr Shoffren said.

For those organisations that do fall into the “pretenders” category, there are some ways to turn attitudes around.

Mr Shoffren said the starting point is utilising data: “When I first start talking to anyone about this topic, people think, ‘Oh, that sounds a bit creepy. You’re going to look at people individually and getting all a bit Big Brother on us as an organisation.’ And we want to make sure that, actually, that’s not what we’re talking about.

“We are talking about looking at organisational trends and trying to understand using data where a certain area of an organisation needs some help. As an HR representative in an organisation, you’ve only got so much time and effort, and you want to make sure that you are investing that time and effort where you can make the biggest impact to the teams.

“What we found is that organisations that are in that pioneer category, about 52 per cent of those are using data to make those insightful decisions, versus only about 25 per cent of the pretenders.”

Another key consideration to help employers become “pioneers” is understanding the power of knowledge.

“Organisations can really make an impact with how they treat and manage knowledge and how they share knowledge,” Mr Shoffren said.

“Similar to the analytics, what we found is 45 per cent of pioneers have implemented tools, technology systems. They’ve invested in the processes and culture to drive out and improve that. Whereas again, only 25 per cent of pretenders have.”

Understanding the importance of analytics and knowledge can help to provide employees with a workplace that cares about them.

The transcript of this podcast episode, when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full audio conversation with Stef Shoffren on 11 May is below, and the original podcast article can be found here.



Your organization's culture determines its personality and character. The combination of your formal and informal procedures, attitudes, and beliefs results in the experience that both your workers and consumers have. Company culture is fundamentally the way things are done at work.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.