IT employers reluctant to allow flexible working: Ambition

IT employers are not living up to the flexible working arrangements promised to employees as they try to hold onto absolute control over workers, according to recruitment firm Ambition.
Written by Spandas Lui, Journalist on

IT employers may say that they offer flexible working conditions to their employees, including working from home and outside of traditional office hours, but the reality is very different, according to global recruitment firm Ambition.

The company surveyed 900 IT workers late last year, of which 27 percent responded that their employers did not offer any flexible working arrangements at all.

The notion of flexible working has been around in Australia for some time. Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy has been a proponent of teleworking as a part of his push for the National Broadband Network (NBN), and last year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard committed to allowing 12 percent of public servants to work from home by 2020.

Private companies such as Westpac have teamed up with the Diversity Council Australia for a campaign supporting flexible workplaces.

However, there seems to be a disconnect between the flexible work options that are on offer by IT employers and what employees actually end up getting, Ambition managing director for technology Andrew Cross told ZDNet.

"What was surprising is the respondents said, 'we don't even get it offered', but when we spoke to senior managers, they said, 'we do have flexible working conditions'," he said. "While managers and management will say they offer it, it doesn't seem like those arrangements are genuinely available to all staff."

According to the IT employee survey, 56 percent of workers would forgo a promotion for flexible working hours, but employers are still reluctant to allow it, Cross claimed.

"It comes down to the environment we're operating in, which is a very risk-averse one since the global financial crisis," he said. "To give somebody the freedom to work out of the office or remotely means you're giving up some of that control over them, and that's perceived as a risk to the business."

This risk aversion has led to a slow adoption of bring your own device (BYOD) as well, a trend that is meant to facilitate flexible working, Cross said.

"BYOD has been talked about for the past five to seven years, and yet even as late as last year, I was talking to CIOs of large corporations that were saying they had just started rolling out their BYOD policies," he said. "These things are talked about but have not necessarily have been implemented on a wide scale as we have been led to believe."

But considering that more than half of IT professionals are looking for a new job, and 64 percent expect to move within the next six months, according to a Hudson report, allowing flexibility in the workplace can serve as a staff-retention tool.

At the end of the day, employers have to have trust in their employees to be able to do the right thing, even when they don't come into the office or are working during unconventional hours, Cross said.

"It's a fine line for employees to get the balance right between trusting employees and risk aversion," he said.


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