Bend with the times
A flexible approach can improve your work/life balance, says Ben Pike
WORKPLACES are generally safer and more equitable than they were in the 1970s but when it comes to flexible working arrangements and catering to the work/life balance, not much has changed in the past three decades.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the proportion of people who worked 50 hours or more increased from 14 to 15 per cent between 1979 and 2009.
The proportion of the population working 60 hours or more stayed steady at 7 per cent during the same period.
For most occupations the equation is simple: more time spent at work is less time spent with family and friends, exercising or enjoying recreational activities.
Launch Recruitment managing director Rebecca Wallace says when it comes to flexible work arrangements a few industries are generally better than others.
‘‘ Education and the public sector are good for people who are bringing up families because of both the hours and the conditions,’’ she says.
‘‘ In teaching, for example, school hours can coincide with their own children’s hours.
‘‘ The fitness industry is growing and there’s certainly flexibility there, just because of the nature of the industry and it is most active around the hours when people are
normally not at work. ‘‘ Industries such as information technology offer people the opportunity to do subcontracting work, where they can work six months of the year and then travel the other half .’’
Wallace says high demand for tradespeople means workers can have a bit more of a say in what hours they do.
She says being selfemployed (as many tradespeople are) means there is more scope to, for example, take holidays when they want instead of when the boss says.
A Galaxy Poll of workers taken last year exclusively for Careerone found 65 per cent of those working overtime acknowledged that additional hours at work was affecting their family relationships.
The same poll found 81 per cent of workers believed it was becoming harder to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
When it comes to occupations that are inflexible and have long hours, managers are the worst off, having to work an average of 45 hours a week, the ABS Labour Force Survey shows.
But while many jobs have inflexible working arrangements, there’s nothing stopping employees looking to negotiate better and more flexible conditions.
Whether it is trying to create a job-share arrangement or looking to start and finish early, Wallace says it is important to be willing to negotiate.
‘‘ If you are coming to an employer with a request for flexibility, make sure it is not