Resource 7 - Common questions, concerns and responses14

Employees and managers are likely to raise questions and may express concerns about the shift to flexible-by-default.

Outlined below are some common questions and concerns which are matched with suggestions to help you respond.

Can I access flexible working if the technology is not there?

How can I manage people working flexibly and still deliver when we don’t have all the right technology?

Imperfect technology can make some types of flexible working harder for employees and managers than it needs to be, but it is not an insurmountable barrier if employees and managers consider workarounds or other types of flexibility. Technology that supports flexible working is increasingly available, as agencies work to enable ongoing delivery at times of crisis (such as major earthquakes). Agencies need to consider improvements if they are not fully set up.

Is flexible working only for working mums or study?

The approach of “if not, why not” democratises and normalises flexible working, regardless of the reason. For instance, flexible working can help reduce unnecessary stress on employees who seek to balance their paid work with a range of personal commitments, like caring for ageing parents, sick family members, or other whānau, community or religious responsibilities, or pursuing other interests. Lots of this type of flexibility takes place already, even though it might not be very visible to the agency as a whole.

Flexible working will only work in some roles, like back- office roles.

You can’t be a manager or leader and work flexibly.

While employees in service-delivery roles may not be able to work from home, there are other flexible working arrangements that should be possible, such as job-sharing or flexible rostering. Context matters. Flexible options that will work for a quarantine officer for example, may be different from those that can work for a policy analyst, but both employees can still have access to some flexible options. Teams working in these types of roles can develop their own processes to ensure delivery continues. There are already managers and leaders who work flexibly, either shifting their hours, or job sharing. The agency case studies in Resource 1 provide examples of how this is happening.

How I deliver outcomes if I can’t see my team?

Full time, face to face is not the only productive way of working and long hours can reduce productivity. Performance can be measured through outcomes (delivering to time and to quality standards) rather than presenteeism. Whether they work flexibly or not, employees are more engaged in their work when managers set clear delivery expectations and trust them. Face-to-face time is still valuable, and employees and managers can discuss how this can be achieved. The tips in Resource 9 will help managers, employees and teams work flexibly, including remotely, and maintain delivery.

I would like to work flexibly but I’m worried it will have a negative impact on my career.

There are many successful leaders who have been promoted while working flexibly. By moving to flexible-by-default, and normalising flexible working it will be less likely to impact on career progression. We will be monitoring flexible-by-default to help ensure flexible working does not impact on career progression.

Will colleagues working flexibly mean I will have to cover for them?

Managers will be considering how flexible arrangements can work for the team as a whole. They will be talking with their teams about how it might work, while maintaining or enhancing delivery and without negatively impacting on team members who don’t work flexibly. Flexible employees and managers also share responsibility for making flexibility work in an ongoing way. Teams can agree on some norms of behaviour (in a team charter, for instance) to ensure everyone plays their part. Resource 9 has tips for managers, employees and teams on reciprocal responsibility, having team conversations and agreeing norms of behaviour across the team.

Do I need to earn my right to flexible working?

Flexible working is not an entitlement, reward or something that needs to be traded off against salary or other conditions of work. Flexible work can be part of a role’s design upfront and new starters can have the same conversation with their teams regarding flexible work as other employees.

Is flexible working just working from home?

Flexible working is about rethinking the where, when and how work can be done. It is more than just working from home or part time. It can include flexible hours, remote working, career breaks, job sharing, study leave, flexible rostering and much more. See Resource 2 for the types of flexible working.

We can’t have everyone working flexibly

Flexible-by-default has to work for employees, managers, teams and the organisation. We recommend that managers and teams proactively discuss how flexibility might work, given the nature of their work, rather than waiting for individual requests. It is unlikely, for instance, that many teams could operate effectively if there was one day a week when no one worked. On the other hand, there may be times when the way teams work has to change markedly, like after earthquakes or during pandemics.

14 Resource 7 has been adapted from the NSW Public Service Commission resource for managers: ‘typical misgivings about flexible working’:© State of New South Wales acting through the Public Service Commission.