Critical components of successful flexible arrangement implementation include:
- work arrangements
- the attitudes of principals, the leadership team and colleagues
No matter how well structured and planned, once implementation begins there may be challenges that require reconsidering the arrangement or creating solutions.
Make the necessary adjustments
- Ensure work arrangements include consideration of the impact on other employees
- Performance reviews should take into account flexible work arrangements and the impact these may have on the ability of the individual to achieve the outcomes of the job. This is particularly important where the arrangement involves either a period of leave or flexible attendance.
- Flexible work arrangements should not disadvantage an individual in their employment or career development and promotion opportunities must take into account people working in flexible work arrangements.
- Communication is a two-way process and principals and employees each have their respective responsibilities. Time devoted to information exchange and coordination is very important to making flexible working arrangements successful.
- Relevant people need to be kept in the loop. Ensure employees on extended leave are regularly kept informed of school developments. Pay attention to shared calendars, message systems, notice boards, and consider buddy systems to make sure formal and informal communication occurs.
- Employees working in flexible arrangements must be included in the life of the school. Meetings should be scheduled to maximise attendance. Employees working in flexible arrangements should have at least some hours in common in the week and these should cover attendance at key meetings.
- Flexible working arrangements require a level of goodwill on the part of a number of people. School community perceptions about how the arrangement is going should be checked on a regular basis.
- Arrangements should be publicised for transparency and so that the work schedules of those working in flexible arrangements are known. It is important that everyone knows when and where colleagues are working.
Practical tip — work arrangements
All jobs need to be well organised. This is especially true if they include flexible work arrangements. Do a check of such positions to see if they include the following features:
- workloads are appropriate to the hours of work
- the hours of work allow for interaction with students, parents, colleagues, school leaders and participation in meetings
- the hours of work allow for participation in teams
- communicate the arrangements to other relevant stakeholders. This may involve letting students, parents, colleagues, and school council members know of the arrangements. Email signature blocks should indicate hours of availability
- put in place arrangements for colleagues to access documents and resources that may be required when the employee is not available
- school leaders should be able to contact employees on flexible work arrangements if necessary. Respect for privacy means such contact should occur only when absolutely necessary
A team’s concern
'We feel we are picking up the slack for all the part-timers. They are not available for so many extracurricular events and they need to be brought up to speed on what has happened when they are away. We feel like saying, ‘what happened when you were away? We took your phone calls and looked through your desk to find your students’ work!'
Flexible work implementation needs to cover such things as communication strategies (shared calendars, message systems, notice boards) and a buddy system to ensure the formal and informal communication loops are operating properly. Flexible work arrangements may affect several people and consideration of full-time colleagues needs to be part of the equation. A review of the arrangement should be conducted regularly and improvements made as required.
Ensuring adequate communication between people working in flexible work arrangements and team leaders, colleagues, parents and students will be difficult.
It is true that communications may have to change. However, with proper planning, flexible work arrangements can be the catalyst to improved communications in general. In some schools, changes to meeting times, and meeting effectiveness strategies precede implementing flexible work arrangements. Techniques and tools such as phone protocols, buddy systems, sign-out boards, voice-mail, email, social networking and mobile phones will assist.
'Students need consistency — not part-time teachers'.
Consistency and flexibility need not be incompatible. Staff members who work part-time do need to be accessible to students. Work schedules and timetables need to be designed to ensure consistency and balance.
Recognise and reward the effort of all involved
- Successful implementation requires positive attitudes and commitment from the employee, team members and school leaders. This commitment should be recognised.
- The school community should be acknowledged for successes in developing alternative models of working and maximising diverse talents by accommodating work-life balance needs.
- Positive results such as reductions in absenteeism or improved productivity and performance attributable to flexible working arrangements should be communicated. Regular and open consultation with parents and staff will ensure that support for flexible work options can be sustained.
Scenario — part-time teacher’s concern
'My child care arrangements have changed and I now need to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, instead of Monday, Thursday and Friday'.
While every effort is made to assist employees balance their work life commitments, if this situation means major timetabling changes, impacts on student learning or on the schedules of a number of other employees, the request may be modified or denied.
Checklist — implementation
A. Whole of school flexibility
Has an analysis of work-life balance needs of employee groups been considered?
Are school-wide innovations in place to meet some of these needs?
Have appropriate options for early career, people with young families, mid- career or mature-age employees been determined?
B. Employee flexible work arrangements
Job arrangements or communication
Has the role been arranged to accommodate a flexible arrangement? Ensure that:
- workload is commensurate with agreed hours
- workload components are balanced
- any impact on colleague workload is acceptable
- communication processes, meetings and support networks optimise productivity
Are performance measures realistic for the arrangement?
Are professional development opportunities available to employees working in flexible arrangements?
Has a cost-benefit analysis been applied?
Are ways to support flexibility and communication in place?
Are those involved in contributing to success recognised and rewarded?
Are there regular dates to review arrangements?
Is it clear what is to be reviewed and what criteria will be used?
Do school leaders and individuals share responsibility for making arrangements work?
Reviewed 03 April 2020