Flexible Working

The power of flexibility in the workplace


This blog is written by Martha Lourey-Bird, exercise scientist.


Staff that exercise regularly are less likely to take sick leave, recover quicker when they do, have more strategies for coping with stress and anxiety and enjoy better sleep and less back pain. They’ve also been shown to be more productive during the working day. What’s not to love?

They’re facts that make injecting some flexibility into the workplace, so that employees have the freedom to fit some exercise into their workday, a really smart strategy. The great news is that more and more organisations are doing exactly that. If you work for one of them, fantastic! If you don’t (yet!) a good starting point is to start talking about it at work, regardless of whether you’re an employer or employee. To kickstart the dialogue, it pays to know how a ‘flexible workplace’ might look, so you know what to aim for. Here are three things they tend to have in common. 

  1. Active lunch breaks are encouraged. Whilst some of the more active workplaces facilitate touch footy comps and running groups at lunchtime, you can start small. Simply pull on a pair of comfy walking shoes, walk away from work in one direction for ten minutes, then turn around and come back. That’s all it takes! Go by yourself or invite a colleague. If your office isn’t located in an area that’s conducive to walking, consider going to a yoga or group fitness class. Many lunchtime classes are 30-45 minutes long, so you’ll have enough time to eat lunch and grab a shower, too. Find more ideas to help you have an active lunch break, here.
  2. Working hours can be tailored to suit exercise. Flexible workplaces are often set up so that people have the freedom to, within reason, choose their own working hours. This might allow people to start work later three days a week, so that they can exercise before work on those days. Alternatively, you could negotiate to start and finish work earlier three days a week, so you can exercise on your way home. An added bonus? By tweaking your work hours slightly, you might also avoid hours a week spent sitting in rush-hour traffic!
  3. Socialising and activity often go together. Instead of office drinks, plan something active and fun for your next work function. It can be anything from a salsa class, to a day out of the office hiking, team walking activities like treasure hunts, a social day of tennis or something more challenging like rock climbing. Ask your colleagues for ideas and take an office vote – early collaboration in these types of activities tends to yield higher participation rates.

Martha's website can be accessed here.

Flex – because life brings curve balls


The following article is authored by Tracy Hocking, Digital Content and Social Media Advisor, DCA.

When I joined the DCA team a few years ago I simply viewed the flexible working arrangements available as a pleasant bonus. My kids were older and reasonably independent and there were no other family members who were in need of my special care or attention. Consequently, I wasn’t looking for a job with flexibility. I didn’t think I needed it.
However, the benefits of the working from home a few days a week and being able to take time out in the middle of the day to deal with a personal or domestic matter quickly became apparent.

Simply not needing to do the one hour commute each way every day gave me the precious gift of time, which I sometimes kept for myself and the family, but also chose to give back some days, by starting and finishing work at the times I would normally begin and end travelling to the office.

Stress levels were down and energy up. I believe I became a better parent, partner, friend and
employee as a result.

Yet, the real benefits of flexible working emerged following unexpected results from some medical tests last year. In December 2017 I underwent major brain surgery on a growing tumour. I needed completely rest for several weeks, was unable to drive for months and told to limit personal interactions as this could put an added stress on a brain recovering from the trauma I had undergone during the eight+ hour procedure.

Six weeks post-op I had the all clear to ease my way back into work. Working from home a few hours each day was the recommendation. Could that be arranged? Absolutely!! I was already set up for this. There was no added stress created by the need to implement new systems, strategies or equipment. It was all there and ready to go. Coming back to work in this way was the best rehab I could have asked for, physically, mentally and emotionally. 

I am now having daily radiotherapy and working adjusted hours around treatment sessions. I have been able to start this regime with confidence that as my energy levels wain and capacity to concentrate declines I can adjust my work pattern accordingly, thanks to pre-existing flexible working arrangements and a very supportive employer and colleagues. Not only is this great for me but I sincerely hope that this will result in my absences not creating a significant added burden on the rest of the hardworking team at DCA. 

Approximately 20% of Australians have some form of disability or significant health condition. 2.1 million Australians of working age (15 – 64 years) have a disability (Australian Network on Disability). 

Accurate data on the number of people with disabilities in your employ can be difficult to gather as many have ‘invisible illnesses’ and choose not to share their health status, particularly in the case of mental health problems. But it is recommended that employers work on the assumption that 10% of their staff have some form of disability. For many of these employees standard workplace flex would make life and work a whole lot better. 

So don’t wait for that request for flexible working arrangements on a reasonable adjustments
application. Make flex mainstreaming in your organisation today. Everyone might not need or want it today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring. 

Read more on DCA's Mainstreaming Flex.

@DivCouncilAus @TracyHocking