Better Work and Family Balance More flexible hours mean more time to enjoy a Mansfield lifestyle Mansfield Shire Council recognised it needed to do more to retain and attract staff. With the help of staff, management realised flexible working arrangements could meet everyone’s needs. After working for some 20 years, Finance Officer Robyn Baddeley, finally has a nine day fortnight – and she loves it. “For a worker with The Shire recognised that it was having trouble attracting and retaining professional staff, particularly when competing with other bigger, city-based councils. a family, it allows me some time to myself. I might choose to spend the day doing housework, but I can also choose to read a book, which is an absolute luxury I’ve never had with an employer before”. Robyn joined the Mansfield Shire Council last year and, soon after, her team became among of the first to embrace the Shire’s move to expand its flexible working arrangements. For Robyn, a nine day fortnight is “a day to look forward to each fortnight” while for the Shire Council, it is a way to attract and retain staff. Kaylene Conrick, Director of Community and Corporate Services, was the leader of the Steering Committee that guided the Shire’s 110 staff through its Work Supporting Lifestyle Employment Model project. The project, funded by a Victorian Government Better Work and Family Balance grant, was carried out between January and December 2004. Under the Better Work and Family Balance grants program, Victorian businesses and local government organisations with less than 200 employees could apply for grants of up to $50,000 to investigate initiatives to assist employees to better balance work and family, while ensuring no adverse impact on the company’s success. “We knew our area was attractive to people wanting a lifestyle change, but we needed a further angle because we couldn’t offer the same salaries as other councils. We decided we needed to look into the flexible arrangements we could offer that would help give us that angle” . Kaylene said the Shire applied for the Better Work and Family Balance grant so that it could undertake a process that involved all staff and come up with something effective for the long-term. “We wanted to develop policies that people could buy into but we didn’t really know what people thought work and life balance meant. So we wanted a process that involved people thinking about their needs and we could match those needs to the Shire’s”. Most of the Shire’s staff (72 of the 110 are effectively full-time) took part in face-to-face interviews or focus groups, while the few that couldn’t were given surveys to complete. Focus groups were deliberately cross-departmental so that staff were able to hear and think about the working and personal requirements of other people After this stage helped to establish people’s work and family needs, the teams in the Tourism and Economic Development, Development Services and Finance units carried out a trial. This trial began with a half-day workshop, which required employees to work out among themselves how they could guarantee that flexible arrangements would not compromise customer service. Industrial Relations Victoria Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development Over a three week period, 13 employees trialled a range of options, including nine day fortnights, starting later and finishing earlier and having formal arrangements for time off in lieu. Of the options, the nine day fortnight was considered the most successful in terms of employee satisfaction and customer service. Interestingly, during this period, staff involved in the trial took 68% less sick leave than in the corresponding period in 2003. Feedback from staff and Shire customers following the trial was overwhelmingly positive and it is an exercise that Kaylene says she would recommend to other employers. “Trials are a very good The Shire has already carried out one evaluation of its new arrangements and it has scheduled a review every 12 months. A staff survey late last year also provided positive feedback. “We asked our employees to name the most important things to them at work and the ability to balance work and family was in the top 10. What was so pleasing, however, was that when asked to name the top ten things that the Shire performs well in, balancing work and family ranked number two” . According to Kaylene, there is still work to be done but perhaps not in the most obvious areas. “There are still some employees who way to spread the word and to carry out some short-term evaluation of whether things work or don’t. They also mean that there’s an opportunity to make adjustments to see if something else works better” . The results of this trial now govern the range of options on offer at the Shire, with the most popular being the nine day fortnight – an outcome that Kaylene says the senior management team initially feared the most. aren’t on the flexible arrangements because they aren’t yet convinced that doing so won’t mean more work for them, so we’ll try and provide them with more information”. “There hasn’t been any change to the way we work in our executive team but that is something I personally will be working towards this year”. Lessons Learnt • A trial is an excellent tool for everyone to see if new arrangements will work. • Involving staff means much more commitment to new ideas. “Our biggest concern was that everyone would want a nine day fortnight, which has happened, and that everyone would want their days off on a Friday or a Monday, which has happened!” said Kaylene. “But, it is okay because we require every unit to work out as a team what they think can work for them. Then, when they have reached agreement among themselves and with their manager, they present the proposed arrangements to the executive team. We haven’t had to knock back any of these submissions and we haven’t had to change any arrangements because they haven’t worked”. In Robyn Baddeley’s five-member finance team, she and two other members have Mondays off, while two others take Fridays off. Contact for further information Kaylene Conrick Director – Community and Corporate Services Mansfield Shire Council Telephone: 03 5775 8555 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: www.mansfield.vic.gov.au “We made sure that it was okay for people to be off at the same time and it has worked fine. It certainly doesn’t mean more work for me or anyone else and it hasn’t affected our services to customers”. Program Background Balancing work and family responsibilities is an increasingly significant challenge for individual employees, their families and the broader community. In responding to this challenge, the Victorian Government implemented the Action Agenda for Work and Family Balance in 2003. A key initiative within the Action Agenda is the Better Work and Family Balance Grants Program. Better Work and Family Balance Grants have provided funding to small businesses and non government organisations to implement policies and programs to assist employees’ work and family balance while improving business performance. Industrial Relations Victoria has been working with organisations to implement flexible working arrangements, including quality part-time work, employee choice rostering and nine day fortnights, as well as the investigation of employee work and family needs and the development of model clauses and agreements. For more information about the Better Work and Family Balance Program contact Industrial Relations Victoria on 03 9651 9200. April 2006
"Better Work and Family Balance - More flexible hours"