Time and flexibility is money: Rethinking today’s employee needs

The world of work as we once knew it is over. Stimulated by the pandemic, the workplace – and what we want from it – has changed entirely. The last two years have been a period of deep reflection; employees who once differentiated businesses based on their payslip and perks like a ping pong table now demand flexibility, meaning, and a firm that values their time.

According to a recent report by LifeWorks, 60% of Australians say flexible work is more important than career progression. This shift in employee behaviours has created an urgent need for firms to reevaluate their value proposition to ensure they can retain quality staff.

How can businesses re-structure to fit employee needs?

Those that identify this shift, and provide the environment workers want today, will be better placed to acquire and retain talent as the ‘great resignation’ continues across Australia.

Rethinking talent acquisition

Even as Australia’s borders reopen to the rest of the world after two years, talent shortages are showing little sign of improving. In the absence of an immediate solution, employers must become the solution. For example, formerly-traditional businesses that digitally transformed during the pandemic know that returning to their former ways will see them struggle.

In just the same way, if businesses don’t recognise this fundamental market shift, they will be left behind in the ongoing and fierce struggle to attract and retain talented staff.

So what should businesses like yours do to ensure your team feels happy, motivated and valued? The answer starts with time; today’s most valued commodity.

Time is money

As someone who’s dedicated my career to understanding and empowering people, I’m amazed by the shift that’s happening today. There are many nuances in terms of what people value today – both in regards to their working environment and their relationship with their job – but freedom over their time is now the non-negotiable demand today.

People are beginning to understand that while work is a necessity, it shouldn’t come at a compromise to their life. Work can and must be balanced around being present for our friends and family and being able to pursue our passions outside the workplace.

Work today is something we do rather than somewhere we go, and Aussies would forgo a few dollars in their paycheck if they had greater control to work when and how they wanted.

So if their work can be done just as effectively from home or around the school run or other family commitments, employers must offer their team greater say in how, where and when they work. The byproduct of this is increased motivation, job satisfaction and productivity.

Ultimately, if you can demonstrate that what matters to them matters to you, you’ll cultivate an environment that existing staff want to stay in and prospective staff want to join.

Focus on what matters – and who matters

Remote working is enabling people to work in locations that once seemed impossible. Thanks to remote work, firms can now hire talent irrespective of geographical location. This opens up the borders for hiring great talent and no longer pigeonholes us by city, state or country.

Because we value our team at SevenRooms, we’re changing. We want our business to work around their needs, rather than their needs working around our business. We’ve introduced a series of policies that demonstrate our commitment to them and their value to us.

Our team can now work anywhere at any time. I have colleagues in dozens of countries, but the one constant is that they’re working from somewhere that’s important to them. We have a head office in the US, an office in Australia, and numerous others around the world.

Our offices will be there for our team, if and when they feel like heading in. If they don’t want to commute or if they want to work after the kids have gone to bed, it’s their prerogative.

We also introduced our ‘Fresh Start’ policy, whereby every new employee spends their first two weeks of employment as paid leave. This allows them to do what’s really important to them – whether it’s spending time with friends and family or going on a local wine tour. However they spend their time, it allows them to recharge before starting a new job.

What works at SevenRooms might not work at a local restaurant. And works at a local restaurant might not work at Wesfarmers, one of Australia’s largest employers.

The point, though, is that to appeal to today’s workers, businesses need to refocus on what’s really important. Employees coming and going is inevitable, but by prioritising them and their time, you’ll be able to attract the right people for the right reasons while keeping your team members motivated and excited to be a part of your company’s growth story.


Paul McCarthy is the Chief People Officer of SevenRooms. Paul McCarthy is responsible for culture, talent acquisition, development and people management for the company.