What is flexible working?
The Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment describes flexible work as the opportunity for people to make changes to: the hours they work (over a day, a week or year), the times and days they work, and where they work. Flexible work also affects: how careers are organised, how transitions in and out of work are managed, and how work is managed in the workplace so that employees and businesses benefit. Examples of flexible working arrangements include: part-time working, term-time working, job-sharing, and flexi- time, compressed hours, annual hours, working from home, mobile working/teleworking, career breaks and commissioned outcomes.
Benefits of flexible working arrangements
Flexible working arrangements (FWA) are increasingly sought after by employees, to pursue greater work life balance and different career models. Organisations that have encouraged flexible working are typically high- performing, with a stronger ability to attract and retain staff. Engagement amongst staff who maintain FWA is typically higher too.
There is strong evidence that greater flexibility in working arrangements is a key solution in addressing the leaky career pipeline of female talent, where it has been observed that many women leave organisations long before reaching the â€˜glass ceiling'. This departure is partly due to competing demands on their time and work environments that are not accommodating of this need for balance.
Similarly, flexible work can make the workplace more suited to people with disabilities. Workbridge, a New Zealand employment agency for people with disabilities, promotes flexible working for this reason. Flexible working enables people to work with hours and environments that are best suited to their abilities, enabling more effective work and longer tenure.
Furthermore, as Millennial's and members of Generation X make up more of the workforce, the demand for flexible working is going to increase. Other generations are also increasingly interested in greater work-life balance. It is apparent that providing options and a culture of flexible working is a key part of a modern organisation's employee value proposition, with benefits for both the organisation and the employee.
Interestingly, SSC's Integrity and Conduct survey (http://www.ssc.govt.nz/integrity-and-conduct-survey-2013-report ) of people employed in the Public Service found high proportions of staff reporting flexible work. The 2013 Workplace Dynamics survey released by the PSA and Victoria University found that while over 50% of respondents felt they had access to flexible work to some extent, there is a gendered element to flexible work, where â€˜72% of women compared to 29% of men strongly disagreed that their working hours were determined entirely by themselves.'
Figure 4.9 shows the proportion of Public Service staff in part-time work over the period 2000-2015. The proportion varied around 6-9%. The high level in 2014 was due to part-time Special Education workers employed by Ministry of Education, and since then the proportion has been trending downwards.
Figure 4.9 Part-time use rates in the Public Service, 30 June 2000-2015
Age profile analysis of part-time work shows that part-time work matches life stages. Figure 4.10 identifies that part- time work is most often used early in career (probably in conjunction with study), then increasing again during the ages when caregiving for children is likely, and increasing again near retirement age.
Figure 4.10 Proportion of Public Service staff working part-time by age group, 30 June 2015
Part-time work is considerably more likely to be held by females than males. This is expected to be caused by the increased likelihood that women are the primary caregiver among other factors.
Some occupations are much more likely to engage part- time workers, most notably social, health and education workers. Managers and ICT workers are less likely to use part-time work as shown in Figure 4.11.
Figure 4.11 Part-time use rates by occupation, 30 June 2007-2015
These graphs identify the importance of having flexible work arrangements that enable better outcomes for people who engage in part-time work during different life-stages and from different careers. As noted earlier, flexible work enables greater retention of talent in the workforce and better outcomes for the organisations that utilise them.
 Cabrera, E. (2009). Fixing the leaky pipeline: Five ways to retain female talent. People and Strategy, 32 (1), pp 40-45. More information is available in the Ministry for Women's Inspiring Action report (2014)
 Coffman and Hagey "Flexible working models: How to bring sustainability to a 24/7 world. Boston: Bain and Company. 2010
Cabrera "Fixing the leaky pipeline: Five ways to retain female talent" People and Strategy 2009 32 1, 40-45