Supportive climate for flexibility
Flexibility requires the right climate to flourish. Schools can create such a climate by exploring ways to build a supportive culture.
A strategic approach
Flexibility needs to be viewed from both short and long-term perspectives and must be linked to school goals and workforce plans.
Principals can check the work-life balance aspirations and expectations of employees and ensure that information is available to them. The business case for flexibility in schools is compelling and it needs to be translated into school workforce plans and shared with employees, so they can tailor their plans accordingly.
Principal ‘to do’
Assess the life balance needs of different groups
Many employees can have their work-life balance needs met through some fairly simple and cost-effective innovations and adjustments. They do not need major changes such as formal flexible work arrangements. Consider the make-up of the staff group in terms of their life cycle and career stage needs
Attitudes to flexible working
As with all change strategies and innovations, management attitudes and support will influence the success of flexible working. Negative attitudes (whether overt or covert) are barriers to success and may lead to discriminatory practices. Identify objections to flexible work arrangements and test them to see if they are sound and based on genuine workplace requirements or outdated assumptions.
Principal ‘to do’
Display flexible work information prominently and inform employees of Department policies
Supportive management skills
Supportive management is the key to success. Characteristics include:
- effective communication
- understanding employees ‘whole lives’
- mentoring and coaching
- consistency and fairness in decision-making
The guiding principles for flexible working
The set out the standards and values that underpin a culture of flexibility. They provide guidance to both principals and employees in carrying out their respective roles and responsibilities with respect to flexibility.
Understand different perspectives and be able to discuss them
Each case is different. It is important to be able to discuss the impact that work arrangements can have on the school program and on student outcomes. Discussions should also include impacts on individuals — morale, family and lifestyle needs and financial security. Principals need to be able to discuss an individual’s performance record, work style, personal suitability for specific flexible working options, and appropriate home arrangements and life cycle changes which impact on balancing work and personal life.
Cultures supporting flexibility
Features of school culture which support flexibility include:
- innovation — rethinking the ways work can be done
- proactive approaches to flexibility for all employees
- an enjoyable work environment
- having positive role models for flexible working and work-life balance
- reward and recognition for supporters of flexibility and celebration of positive stories about flexibility
Checklist — a supportive climate for flexibility
- Do the school’s employees know about the Department’s policies regarding flexible work?
- What innovation, ideas, programs and practices have been introduced to support work life balance in the school?
- Are supportive management skills applied? How would you rate the levels of communication, feedback, mentoring and coaching, trust, respect, understanding of employee ‘whole lives’ and consistency and fairness in decision-making?
- Are there visible role models for flexibility?
- Are there high levels of trust and autonomy?
- Is the work environment productive and enjoyable?
- Do employees feel comfortable requesting flexible work arrangements?
- Is flexibility seen as a part of the school’s culture?
Reviewed 03 June 2020