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Fully flexible work: The good, the bad and the ugly

😃 The Good: Encourages gender equality
😔 The Bad: More unpaid hours
😡 The Ugly: It’s not always good for women

New research from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) found more Aussie employers were adopting an ‘all roles flex’ model, allowing their staff to determine how, where and when they worked.

And while many people have embraced flexible work for many reasons, it can also work wonders for gender equality. But flexible work can be a double-edged sword. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly.

Flexible work allows women to balance care responsibilities equally and they can be more active members of the workforce.

Ever been in the situation where you have completed all your work for the day but you’re still technically meant to be in the office for another couple of hours?


Well the WGEA report found there had been a massive uptake of this new ‘all roles flex’ model, which prioritises work output and outcomes over hours spent in the office.

WGEA director Mary Wooldridge said employers needed to look beyond offering working-from-home options when thinking about flexibility in the workplace and look at the hours worked and when.

“Flexible work is a key driver for gender equality, but employers should be creative to enable their employees to have flexibility that meets their specific needs,” Wooldridge said.

“Innovative actions we’ve seen from employers include creating shifts specifically within or outside of school hours and offering job sharing or part-time work arrangements for managerial or executive roles.

“These types of measures make it easier for men and women to equally participate in the workforce – whether that’s from the office or home.”

A woman works from home on a laptop and desktop computer
Flexible work has given some Aussies a better work/life balance. (Source: Getty)


The line between work life and personal life has been blurred and, as a result, many of us are doing a lot more unpaid overtime.

Australia Institute research economist Eliza Littleton told Yahoo Finance that, while flexible work had undoubtedly helped women with sharing household and care responsibilities, it had also resulted in many Aussies doing a lot of unpaid hours.

In fact, the Australia Institute's Go Home on Time report found Aussie workers were doing around six weeks of unpaid work every year.

“That is worth around $8,000 in unpaid wages across every workforce. Employers are profiting about $92 billion from unpaid wages because of unpaid overtime,” Littleton said.

“Flexibility, as it relates to where you can work, can really blur the lines between work and our personal lives. Many workers are now familiar with the experience of taking calls outside of work hours, answering emails on the weekend and teleconferencing from the dining table.

“The flexibility means that no one really knows what hours their colleagues are working and everyone is so contactable.”


Flexible work can mean women - who often have the lion’s share of other responsibilities, such as caring for children or family - end up fitting their other responsibilities around work.

Littleton said flexible work could be a double-edged sword for women in the workplace.

“Having flexibility means you can shape your work hours around all of your other care responsibilities but that can disproportionately burden women,” she said.

“To some degree, to support working families, we do need to introduce flexibility, but it can't be at the expense of women and their financial independence and career progression.”

A study from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found women on average spent 4 hours and 31 minutes a day on unpaid work activities, like housework and child care.

“This is a lot more work that women are doing and so, when we introduce flexibility into that, that can be really good. But, of course, the downside is that flexibility can also create conditions where you’re doing a lot of unpaid overtime,” Littleton said.


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