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Is There Such A Thing As "Too Flexible"? Your Top 5 Questions Answered



September 30, 2018


Could too much flexibility become a liability in your workplace? Following the release of Mercer's 2018 Global Talent Trends Study,, our Talent Strategy Leader Ephraim Patrick, sat down with Workplace Info to answer key questions Australian HR Leaders are asking about flexible working.


  1. Is there such a thing as “too flexible” status? More and more organisations are unpacking what too flexible means to them, moving away from when and where towards how and what. What does flexible mean? What does flexible need to make it work? What type of work is suitable for flexibility? Does the organisation have a positon around it? The employee should be able to work in a way that enables cohesion and high performance. 

    Yes, you can be too flexible if there is no sense of cohesion or sense of team. IBM famously made all marketing teams come to work in the office for this reason. They killed home work in this area. 

    HR people are concerned about fairness and fair application of flexible policies.  

  2. What are the main reasons businesses don’t consider flexible work arrangements? Thinking of presenteeism, people are only present if watched. There are general and genuine concerns about application and fairness.  

  3. Do you think part of the challenge we have with Australian business leaders is that many people still think of work in terms of either full-time or part-time hours, rather than role outcomes? There are trends around adaptive working. It’s all about that. It’s about unpacking flexibility.  

  4. In industries such as health, aged care or community services, offering employees permanent flexible conditions is limited due to the type of position prevalent in these industries. What alternative benefits can employers offer? Are flexible conditions applicable in these industries? It’s the wrong assumption. Maybe you can’t at the moment because technology systems can be archaic. But there is a lot of money going into technology. There are also options for flexibility, although I know it is very difficult. I would challenge the assumption of the question. Given it’s a low-paid environment, maybe give additional work arrangements to the workers. The pressure in such industries will not abate so there’s a need to innovate and think around the issue. It also requires empathy.  

  5. Are traditional notions of employment classification becoming redundant? I don’t think so, although there is a big movement against it around the world. If you are, as an individual, pitching against a global pool of talent, then it is a race to the bottom. But it’s a more nuanced approach than that. There will be protected areas in national economies. And some organisations won’t shift to a wholly outsourced, casual or gig model as they have corporate social responsibilities.

Hungry for more? Mercer's Talent Strategy consultants are trusted advisors to public and private-company senior management and boards of directors and provide best-in-class expertise in responding to key talent challenges, and planning and preparing workforces for the future of work. If you’d like to discuss what digital transformation looks like in your organisation and industry, reach out to the team here.


This article was originally published on Workplace Info by Amber Jacobs.


Mercer Australia
Workforce and Career

Mercer Australia

Workforce and Career

Mercer partners with leading organisations across the globe to help them grow their businesses through better talent solutions.


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