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New Zealand Companies Mistrust Flexible Workers

New Zealand Companies Mistrust Flexible Workers

Businesses being held back by outdated management and organisational mistrust

Auckland,16 September 2004 – The majority of New Zealand managers do not trust their employees to work away from the office and are denying them the opportunity to work flexibly, according to the results of a survey launched today. Mistrust and rivalry between co-workers regarding flexible working* is also rife, with those who work away from the office subject to criticism and corridor gossip from their colleagues.

The report, Mobility and Mistrust, commissioned by Toshiba (Australia) Pty Limited, Information Systems Division (ISD) and conducted by independent researcher, Sweeney Research surveyed 600 managers and employees across Australia (402 respondents) and New Zealand (198 respondents) about their attitudes towards flexible working.

Mark Whittard, ANZ General Manager, Toshiba ISD said: “The results indicate many organisations are risking their competitive advantage by not understanding the benefits associated with flexible working and by ignoring the demands of employees, who will soon be at a premium according to projections on the tightening workforce. Industry and Government organisations must help businesses update their managerial practices in order to implement flexible working successfully, for the greater benefit of business and the economy.”

The report principally found that: Mistrust of flexible workers is prevalent amongst New Zealand and Australian organisations: more than 50 per cent of respondents think managers are less trusting of flexible workers and nearly 75 per cent think employees disapprove of their colleagues who sometimes work away from the office; Most managers (75 per cent) in non-flexible workplaces said they would be unlikely to let employees work flexibly, even though nearly 50 per cent of employees would like to, if allowed; A main obstacle to the uptake of flexible working is the perceived difficulty in monitoring and supervising employees, indicating scope for greater use of performance rather than attendance-based evaluation techniques in order to increase trust. Sixty five per cent of managers and 59 per cent of employees cited monitoring and supervising as a common problem; Most organisations do not have policies to support flexible working: only 26 percent of flexible workplaces have policies, and most of these are individual, not standard across the organisation; and Technology is not considered a significant impediment to flexible work practices.

“With work-life balance already under the spotlight in New Zealand, the lack of trust and inflexible work practices uncovered by this report indicate that many organisations are jeopardising their business sustainability by not offering a modern approach to work practices,” said Mr Whittard.

“The technology is now here to support flexible working, however a majority of New Zealand businesses are missing out on the direct savings and productivity benefits on offer because they do not understand how to implement the ‘people’ side of the equation. This includes monitoring and rewarding staff on performance rather than on attendance,” he added.

Dr James Cowley, independent academic and adviser on the report said: “Flexible working offers up to six times the level of return through the cost savings associated with fewer overheads, parking, technology and recruitment and training costs. It also assists organisations maintain their business sustainability through the experience of loyal staff.

“New Zealand businesses need to start following the lead of other countries, and begin trusting their workforces in order to remain ahead. Flexible working has the potential to revolutionise the workplace to bring about innumerable benefits to the business and the individual, and also addresses the greater societal issues associated with over-urbanisation, such as pressure on transportation and the environment,” he added.

Old-fashioned ways of assessing staff The lack of trust that Mobility and Mistrust has revealed may be in part due to the use of old fashioned performance evaluation techniques. The difficultly in monitoring and supervising employees was the most commonly cited disadvantage of flexible working, and workers in large organisations find it particularly hard. If managers cannot see their employees are working and rely on traditional ‘clock on, clock off’ methods of monitoring staff performance, it correlates that they may not trust their workers. This indicates that organisations need to embrace metrics that assess workers based on performance rather than attendance.

Lack of policies Even in those organisations with flexible workplaces, only 26 per cent provide written guidelines to personnel, and in more than a third of cases these are individual agreements with the staff member – not standard policies across the organisation. This indicates that organisations offering flexible working may not always provide the necessary support and information to managers to assist in its implementation. Also, rivalry and mistrust between employees may be fuelled if all employees are not governed by similar guidelines.

Lack of advice Only nine per cent of respondents said that they rely on government or union directives for guidance on flexible working. Twenty three per cent of organisations rely on industry networking in order to gather information on the practice. This indicates the level of need for sharing of ‘best practice’ success stories and greater resources on flexible working from government and industry groups.

Technology is not the issue The survey highlighted that technology is not a principal limitation to flexible working in organisations: only 12 per cent strongly agreed it was an issue. More employees than managers identify technology as any sort of a limitation, which correlates with the fact that managers would have a greater awareness and access to the technology available in the organisation.

Increasing trend Mobility and Mistrust found that only 35 per cent of New Zealand organisations currently have flexible workplaces, yet 39 per cent of personnel in non-flexible workplaces have jobs that can be undertaken flexibly. A majority of respondents feel that flexible working is an increasing trend (85 per cent overall), however the finding that most managers would not let staff work flexibly even if the organisation let them, indicates that there is still a need for education and training into how to manage flexible workers and a need to communicate the benefits more effectively.

Flexible Working Special Interest Group and Management Guide Following the results of this report, Toshiba ISD is calling on leading business people, management and human resource experts to be involved in a Special Interest Group on flexible working. The outcomes of this consortium will be published in a management guide, which will provide organisations with practical advice on how to achieve the benefits offered by flexible working, including models and case studies.

To access the full Mobility and Mistrust survey or to be involved in the Toshiba Special Interest Group on flexible working, please visit: or contact Kristie O’Dwyer on 09 526 7715. - ends -

About Toshiba Flexible Working Special Interest Group and Management Guide: Following this research, Toshiba will be working with a consortium of organisations and academics to develop and issue a management guide to assist organisations in implementing flexible working. It will outline the range of considerations required for success and will provide models and case studies. To take part in this special interest group, please contact Toshiba via Kristie O’Dwyer on 09 526 7715 or

Survey & Research Methodology: Toshiba Australia’s Information Systems Division (ISD) commissioned independent research company Sweeney Research to survey 600 workers across Australia and New Zealand to explore the opinions on flexible working. During April and May 2004, Sweeney Research conducted 600 confidential telephone interviews with managers and employees across Australia (402 respondents) and New Zealand (198 respondents). Participants were selected randomly to reflect a representative sample of the working population in these two countries. The survey covered a wide range of industry sectors, including: Communication services; Finance and Insurance; Government administration and Defence; Manufacturing; Property and Business Services; Retail and Wholesale trade; Transport and Storage and Utility Supplies and Services.

About Toshiba

The New Zealand office of Toshiba’s Information Systems Division (ISD) is a division of Toshiba (Australia) Pty Limited – a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba Corporation, the seventh largest integrated manufacturer of electric and electronic equipment, with around 165,000 employees worldwide, and annual sales of over US$47 billion on a consolidated basis.

Unique among vendors, Toshiba ISD specialises exclusively in mobile solutions and services and is also the only leading computer brand that is 100 per cent channel-centric. A global reputation for quality has been achieved through an R&D budget roughly equal to Australia’s total expenditure as a country in this area. Toshiba pioneered the notebook market in 1985 and in recent years, Toshiba ISD extended its solutions offering for New Zealand with the inclusion of a range of Pocket PCs and personal storage products.

Committed to People, Committed to the Future. Toshiba

Toshiba’s Virtual Pressroom:

About Sweeney Research Sweeney Research was established in Melbourne in 1972. Since that time the organisation has grown steadily and is now one the five largest research consultancies in Australia with an annual turnover in the region of $10 million and offices in both Melbourne and Sydney.

With expertise in both qualitative and quantitative research, Sweeney Research offers a full range of research services to an extensive client base both in Australia and overseas with a focus on both business-to-business and consumer-based research. In addition to studies conducted in sectors including telecommunications, IT, insurance, health and government, Sweeney Research is also responsible for publications including the Sweeney Sports Report, Sweeney Arts Report, and the recently launched Spin Sweeney Report – the most definitive study of 16-28 year-olds in Australia.

Issued by Action Communications Limited on behalf of the New Zealand office of Toshiba Australia (ISD) Pty Ltd. Hi-res pics of Mark Whittard are available.

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