Seven myths about flexible working and how to debunk them

By Harley Dennett

Thursday April 12, 2018

How do you challenge colleagues who say flexible working won’t work in your organisation? Arm yourself with these rebuttals from Diversity Council Australia.

We here at The Mandarin/Private Media like to think we walk the talk on flexible-by-default. Whether it be days off in lieu, our top general manager who could stay part-time following maternity leave, dads who end each day before school does, or this editor who can work from whichever state or territory his Defence family is posted next — and in doing so experience a different perspective.

Our organisation benefits from this flexibility, so when we see flexible working tips that might help your organisation, of course we want to share them.

These seven debunked myths we especially like, from Diversity Council Australia. It’s made me rethink some my assumptions about whether we really were walking the talk.

A major stumbling block to enabling more people to access flexible work and careers are the myths and misconceptions about workplace flexibility that abound. Diversity Council Australia has identified seven commonly held myths about flexible working and presents the facts to debunk them.

DCA’s CEO Lisa Annese said organisations and individuals are discouraged from engaging in flexible work by these myths and misconceptions.

“Employers often view flexible work as an inconvenience; as something to accommodate mothers but offering little benefit to the organisation.

“Many employees want access to flexible work but are discouraged by a workplace culture that views anything other than full-time ‘face time’ work as second rate.

“Unfortunately, this keeps keep flexible work and flexible careers on the margins rather than mainstream.

“DCA is challenging these myths and inaccurate assumptions to explore the real truth about workplace flexibility and its benefits,” Annese said.

Myth 1: flexibility is just an HR tool to help staff balance work-life

There is a mountain of evidence showing that workplace flexibility is actually a powerful business tool which maximises the performance and wellbeing of organisations, teams, and individuals.

Myth 2: the ideal worker is full-time ‘face-time’

Flexible workers are as productive, if not more, than their non-flexible colleagues. E.g. women in flexible roles are the most productive employees. Men with high commitment to work but who create boundaries between work and home out-perform colleagues. Managers with care-giving responsibilities are rated by their staff as better managers and have more satisfied staff.

Myth 3: flexibility is just about accommodating an individual’s personal circumstances

Flexibility works best when it’s designed with the team in mind. It can empower employees to solve problems, increases teamwork, reciprocity and ownership of the solution, reduces management time, and speeds decision-making.

Myth 4: flexibility is just for new mums

Flexibility is for all workers for any reason including caring for dependents, personal development, community involvement,

lifestyle reasons, to be an active grandparent etc. Evidence shows all workers as well as specific groups such as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, men, older and younger workers want and need flexible work.

Myth 5: flexibility is just another word for part-time work

Flexibility is so much more than part time work. Flexible work is about when, where, and how work is conducted. Flexible careers are about enabling employees to enter, exit, and re-enter workforce, or increase or decrease their workload or career pace at different life stages.

Myth 6: flexible workers are less ambitious

Flexibility boosts workers’ career ambition as research shows that employees’ career aspirations increase when flexible work is provided.

Myth 7: flexibility doesn’t work in our backyard

There’s a huge body of research that shows that across all industries, job levels, and job types, flexibility drives financial performance and productivity, is linked to increased revenue, and impacts positively on client service. The secret to flexibility’s success is not picking the right industry, organisation or role – the secret is simply good design and implementation.

DCA have published a longer guide with research references called Myth Busting Flexibility: Using Evidence to Debunk Common Myths and Assumptions. The report is available on the DCA website for its member organisations.

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