Is flexible work the answer to the staff retention challenge for small businesses?

Giving staff the opportunity to access flexible working arrangements is one of the best ways to keep them engaged productive and loyal, according to new research.

This, along with other benefits such as employer-provided insurances, has considerable and long-term positive flow-on effects.

A new research report by MetLife Australia, Employee Benefits Trends Study: Thriving in the new work-life world, has found the top ‘must have’ benefit employees value is the ability to work flexibly. According to the study, flexible working options around hours worked, the location at which work is performed and the roles people perform are the most highly-prized employee benefits.

Staff also value training and development, additional paid time off, as well as employer-provided total and permanent disability (TPD) and income protection insurance. “Flexibility is the number one, must-have benefit. But it means different things to different people,” says MetLife Australia’s Head of Research & Insights, André Purtell.

For instance, while some people value having a fluid schedule rather than having set hours, others want to work remotely and the ability to change up their responsibilities.

“Employees who feel more confident about their finances thanks to having support such as income protection insurance are also more productive”

One of the top challenges for employers – particularly for small and mid-sized companies – is meeting growing demands for work/life flexibility. Nevertheless, firms that are able to rise to the occasion enjoy many advantages.

“Offering flexible working options is likely to result in more engaged, productive, happier and loyal employees. It isn’t possible to offer flexibility in all industries or for all roles. But for firms for which it is an option, it’s important for rules and expectations to be clearly communicated, with behaviour role-modelled from the top down,” says Purtell.

With a growing and aging population, it’s crucial for employers to provide greater flexibility to staff to help retain people with valuable experience and to engage younger team members. According to the research, 66 per cent of permanent, full-time and fixed-term contract employees would be interested in freelance or contract work in the future.

This figure rises to more than 70 per cent for younger people. The key reasons cited were due to wanting to work where they want, having a flexible schedule, having more variety in day with multiple projects. But it’s important for employers to have the right infrastructure in place to meet these needs. It’s also essential to provide other benefits that support employees’ lives outside of work, such as life insurance.

This helps to ensure personal problems don’t distract staff at work, given employees’ personal lives are a factor that cause stress at work, according to the research findings.

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The benefits of this approach

Businesses that appreciate how much employees value flexible working arrangements, as well as other benefits, develop a workplace of which staff want to be a part and to which they want to contribute. The ability to work on their terms is a great way for employers to help meet their employees’ individual needs and keep valuable experience in the workforce.

According to MetLife’s research, staff who can access health and wellness support or allowances through their employer such as health checks, vaccinations, yoga, massages and gym memberships have comparatively lower stress levels than those who don’t have access to these perks. They also believe their employer is committed to their success, and are likely to show greater loyalty. Employees who feel more confident about their finances thanks to having support such as income protection insurance are also more productive.

“Steadfast Life and MetLife are working together to develop solutions for businesses to address concerns employees have around financial security,” says Daniel Orrell, Chief Distribution Officer, Steadfast Life.

“Though popular in countries such as the US, the notion of providing benefits beyond someone’s salary is still gaining traction in Australia. But MetLife’s research shows the power of thinking laterally to address employee concerns to help make employees more productive,” he adds.

Why not make 2020 the year you explore how employee benefits such as life and income protection insurance and flexible working can add real value to your business and your team?

The information about life insurance is general only and does not take into account your personal situation, needs or objectives.

Important note: you should consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) in deciding whether to buy (or continue to hold) life insurance and whether life insurance is appropriate for you.  The PDS can be obtained from Steadfast Life Pty Ltd (ABN 81 111 380 388, AFSL no. 421904).

MetLife Insurance Limited (ABN 75 004 274 882, AFSL no. 238096) issues life insurance.

Important notice – Steadfast Group Limited ABN 98 073 659 677 and Steadfast Network Brokers

This article provides information rather than financial product or other advice. The content of this article, including any information contained in it, has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the appropriateness of the information, taking these matters into account, before you act on any information. In particular, you should review the product disclosure statement for any product that the information relates to it before acquiring the product.

Information is current as at the date the article is written as specified within it but is subject to change. Steadfast Group Ltd and Steadfast Network Brokers make no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Various third parties have contributed to the production of this content. All information is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Steadfast Group Limited.


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