Telstra embraces flexible working for all staff

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 13 Jul 2016

Pressure on employees’ time prompted tech giant to change its mindset and make agility a priority

Discovering it had a high proportion of caregivers within its workforce prompted global telecoms company Telstra to embrace flexible working for all its employees, delegates at the annual Classified Post HR conference were told.
The Australian-headquartered organisation employs around 35,000 people across 22 locations worldwide, including 700 in Hong Kong, and has been growing steadily in the past 18 months, according to Rebecca Lucas, general manager, HR mergers and acquisitions.
However, company data showed that 53 per cent of its employees were caregivers in one form or another, while 70 per cent of its workforce in south east Asia were aged 29 and under, with many spending hours travelling to and from work in heavily congested cities.
Lucas said that while the company’s former CEO was “a bit nervous” about the idea of making all its roles flexible, HR had a compelling case to make, and he was soon won over.
The company recently rolled out its All Roles Flex programme, which enables jobs to be done anywhere at any time. The options are administered on an individual basis, and range from working certain scheduled shifts or a four-day week, to taking alternative holiday breaks or care-giving leave.
“We’re given our employees a gift: time,” said Lucas. Instead of spending three hours in Jakarta’s traffic, they can work from home or elsewhere and spend one and a half hours at the beginning and end of the day doing something they care about.
The organisation also offers the ability to take three-month sabbaticals. Asia’s ageing population means that the over-55s make up a sizeable portion of the employee base, and while they often have a lot to contribute, they don’t always want to work as many hours as they used to, with many keen to take extended travel breaks, said Lucas.
To cater for this, Telstra allows them to take three months’ leave during off-peak periods of the year and then return to work during peak times. Lucas said flexibility was a big motivator for its employees, and helped turn them into strong advocates for the organisation.
Of the employees that said they now had the desired level of flexibility at work, 55 per cent reported higher engagement levels, and the same proportion reported less stress. The company has also experienced 45 per cent lower staff turnover. “Being open to hiring candidates in different locations has also been a great attraction,” said Lucas.