Benefits of flexible working arrangements

Many employers have already adopted flexible working arrangements because they make good business sense. They can help:

  • retain skilled staff and reduce recruitment costs
  • raise staff morale and decrease absenteeism
  • meet labour market changes more effectively.

For employees, the opportunity to work flexibly can help them strike a better balance between their paid work and other responsibilities.

Rights and responsibilities

If you are an employee you: If you are an employer you:
have a “right to request” flexible working arrangements. You can ask:
  • to change your working arrangements – either permanently or for a set time
  • anytime, from your first day of work
  • for any purpose or reason. For example, caring for children or older parents, playing sport or working in the community
  • for flexible working arrangements, but the employer doesn't have to agree with the request if there is a good business reason for declining.
have a “duty to consider” any requests. You:
  • must think carefully about every request and reply in writing as soon as possible, but not later than one month
  • don't have to agree to it if there's a good business reason not to, however employees do have a right to ask for flexible working arrangements
  • can only say “no” for certain reasons – these reasons need to be stated if the application is declined
  • don't have to agree with the request if there is a good business reason for declining.

Examples of common forms of flexible work

  • Flexi time/adjusted hours – employees work for an agreed total number of ‘core hours’ and choose when their working day begins and ends.
  • Core hours – hours during which employees working flexi-time must be at work (for example, 10am to 4pm).
  • Staggered hours – different start and finish times for employees in the same workplace.
  • Time in lieu/time banking – any extra hours worked are compensated for by paid time off.
  • Flexi-breaks – stopping for breaks at times that suit the employee’s particular workload or preferences.
  • Part-time/reduced hours/job sharing/job splitting – employees work less than full-time hours. For this to happen the job is often redesigned and responsibilities split between a number of part-time employees.

Benefits of flexi-hours

  • Improves efficiency if work schedules match employees’ most productive hours
  • Gives employees more control over scheduling personal responsibilities during the workday
  • Allows for commuting outside of peak rush hours
  • Retains employees who need time off to care for dependents or to meet other responsibilities outside of paid work
  • Expands labour pool
  • Brings broader range of knowledge, skills and experience
  • May provide an option for employees who want to reduce their total time at work, but whose jobs cannot be done on a part-time basis.
  • Weekday/weekend swap – employees swap working on a weekday for working on a weekend day.
  • Shift self-selection – employees assist with the development of shift work schedules and choose their own shifts.
  • Weeks on/weeks off – working one or several weeks and taking one or several weeks off.

Benefits of flexi-weeks 

  • Improves productivity if the quieter times of the day/week is better for doing some types of work.
  • Allows for more days off.
  • Decreases the number of days employees commute.
  • Allows for commuting outside of peak rush hour.
  • Compressed week – weekly full-time hours are worked over a shorter time period.
  • Term-time working – working during the school terms and taking paid or unpaid time off during school holidays.
  • Annualised hours – an agreed number of hours worked on a yearly rather than a weekly basis.
  • Buyable leave – employees exchange an agreed reduction in salary for extra periods of leave over a specified period.

Benefits of flexi-year

  • Provides options for employees to take limited or extended time off from work to manage various family and personal responsibilities.

Tele-working/tele-commuting/home-working/remote-working – all these options involve working from home or another location outside of the workplace on either a full- or part-time basis.

Benefits of flexi-location

  • offers alternative to relocation
  • expands potential labour pool geographically
  • reduces office space and associated costs
  • accommodates employees with disabilities
  • reduces or eliminates commuting
  • provides an environment with fewer workplace distractions
  • allows employees to work during their “personal best time".

Hot desking – temporary use of a workstation.

Benefits of flexi-worksite

  • encourages collaboration across work-groups and project teams
  • reduces permanent office space and associated costs.
  • career break/sabbatical – extended periods of leave that are normally unpaid
  • work transition – provides opportunities for employees to make changes in their work hours, location or job responsibilities. For example, employee making changes after a significant accident or medical issue
  • phased retirement – hours of work are progressively reduced until full retirement is reached at a specified date
  • phased return/gradual return – hours of work are progressively increased until a full complement of full- or part-time hours is reached at a specified date. Often used by parents returning from parental leave
  • self-managed work – employees work in their own way, often without direct supervision, towards an agreed goal
  • job rotation/role rotation – employees move between two or more jobs so they can cross-train and develop a wider variety of skills.

Benefits of flexi-career

  • expands labour pool
  • provides options for gradual return to work after parental or other leave
  • allows gradual entry into retirement, retention of skills and succession development
  • provides opportunities for cross-training and skill enhancement.

Flexible work in New Zealand and other countries

Many other countries have also developed resources on flexible work that you may find useful.