Bend with the times

A flex­i­ble ap­proach can im­prove your work/life bal­ance, says Ben Pike

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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

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