Research insights: working flexibly in Australia


Working flexibly means breaking free from traditional workspaces and embracing the ability to work anytime, anywhere.

Australians who work flexibly utilise internet-connect technologies to allow them to choose more suitable hours and work remotely.

To understand the state of flexible working in Australia, we surveyed 1000 full-time or self-employed Australians aged between 18-65*.

The study defined flexible working as an arrangement that allows for flexibility around locations, hours, patterns, rostering, job sharing, gradual return to work, and negotiating extra leave (including 48/52 purchased leave).

Here’s a snapshot of what the survey discovered

Men are more likely to work flexibly than women

Are you currently working flexibly in your workplace?

It is interesting that 65 per cent of male full-time workers have some flexibility in their workplace, opposed to 59 per cent of women.

The source of this disparity is likely a combination of a few reasons.

It might be correlated to other results: for example, 67 per cent of building site workers (a largely male dominated industry) claim their workplaces offer flexible arrangements.

Other factors such as inequality in the workplace (more men in senior roles where they often have power to dictate their hours) could also be a major influence.

Flexible workplaces have higher-paid workers

Workers in flexible workplaces are 19 per cent more likely to have a household income over $180,000.

This might be correlated to 78 per cent of small business owners and 76 per cent of managers (both with high earning potential) reporting flexibility.

Other factors might also be at play. For example, when employers try to entice new talent, they often include flexible work arrangements on top of offering large salaries.

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Workers in arts and media are least likely to be working flexibly

Arts and media workers failing to have flexible work arrangements isn’t surprising, considering many sectors within this industry (such as public relations) require strict communication timelines and lots of face-to-face client meetings, which can prevent working flexible hours or working away from the office.

Workers in the sports, automotive/engineering and construction were found to be most likely to work flexibly.

Those working in factories were among the least likely to be flexible, which is expected.

What’s holding workers back from working flexibly?

Why aren’t more people asking for flexible work?

Thirty-nine per cent of workers who could work flexibly are failing to take the opportunity.

There is no single reason why, but many believe it might lead to less effective work (working longer hours).

Furthermore, 67 per cent of those who don’t work flexibly don’t think they have the tools they need.

Despite this, 70 per cent of those who don’t work flexibly believe flexible work would improve their work-life balance.

So why aren’t employees actively seeking more flexibility for their hours, rosters, working locations or extra leave, to give them better work-life balance?

Aside from having the right equipment, it’s possible that workers are either nervous or anxious about what their employer, manager or colleagues will think about them adopting flexible working conditions – even if it’s just a minor change.

On the whole, 77 per cent of those who don’t work flexibly have never asked their employer about doing it.

Perhaps the barrier of simply asking for a flexible working arrangement is the reason why many workers aren’t working flexibly, even though over two-thirds admit they would like to work flexibly.

So if you think you’d enjoy the freedom of working on-the-go – and if you think it’s right for your situation – consider asking your employer or manager.

*Research conducted by data2decisions, on behalf of Officeworks, in September 2015.