The drive for workplace flexibility and how we should respond

Across every industry, the trend towards workplace flexibility continues to grow. The resources sector is no different – if we want to make the most of our employees’ productivity and ensure we can recruit the best talent, flexible work options need to be available.

Why do people want flexibility?

From millennials who see flexibility as a top priority, to working parents trying to juggle family and work needs, and even Baby Boomers for whom flexible locations and hours are an appealing incentive, the push for new ways of working is widespread.

A 2013 report by Deloitte on workplace flexibility notes three main drivers for this trend:

  1. Talent shortages are making the recruitment landscape more competitive, and workplace flexibility can be the deciding factor when vying for top talent.
  2. Mobile tech and online collaboration tools have changed how we work.
  3. Increasingly, teams are working across distances and time zones, which disrupts the nine-to-five paradigm.

Flexible work and the resources sector

In many ways, the dynamic nature of our industry is well suited to elastic, flexible workplaces that help us retain talent.

The resources sector is characterised by:

  • FIFO rosters
  • demanding travel schedules for senior executives
  • rotating shift rosters
  • remote locations with limited childcare options.

These factors add a layer of complexity to working conditions. Flexible work presents an obvious way to mitigate some of these issues, but it’s imperative that flexible conditions be implemented in a considered and strategic way.

Key considerations

The same report by Deloitte stresses that: “Few, if any, organisations have fully cracked the code on workplace flexibility. What’s clear is that even incremental steps towards a more flexible work culture can make a big difference in attracting and retaining more productive talent.”

The report notes some important considerations for organisations looking at increasing flexible options.

See the added value

Beyond employee recruitment and retention benefits, workplaces can also benefit financially if flexibility means less office space and the ability to recruit from other geographic areas.

Ask employees what they want

Surveying your employees allows you to see what’s valuable to them so that you can properly think through the organisational implications of any changes. Encouraging transparency around what your workers want can also help you get to know about them and any other aspects of their situation that could need attention.

Technology isn’t a solution in itself

While tech is enabling new ways of working, success ultimately still lies in effective management: “As workplace flexibility and virtual teams become the norm for getting things done, managers, team leaders and executives will need to improve their skills and broaden their expectations”. It’s also important to rigorously test whether your tech systems are up to the job of supporting virtual work arrangements.

MEC’s Approach

At MEC Mining:

  • many of our team members spend at least one day per week working from home, which allows them to share parenting duties with their partners
  • start and finish times vary across the team, allowing staff to choose working times that balance the needs of family
  • some MEC team members spend part of their week working from locations outside of our Brisbane base.

We see flexibility as a way to uphold and develop our values, which include:

  • collaborating and sharing ideas
  • making relationships count
  • being courageous in dealing with people and ideas.

Flexibility is relevant to all three – how we listen to the needs of our people, how we nurture those we recruit, and how we approach the demands of a complex, changeable world. We continue to explore new ways of working because we understand that it’s crucial if we’re to stay relevant and competitive.