Is flexible working good or bad?



Last week we reported how one hospital was trying to force members to work in open plan spaces. This has been resisted by the Union and members and it appears management will backtrack on this silly idea. Open plan working is part continuum of a new kind a flexible working called activity based working.

Unions have argued for positive flexible working, for example the ability to vary hours to accommodate caring responsibilities. Unfortunately, some hospitals oppose this type of positive flexibility.

Liverpool Hospital has prevented two fathers being involved in the after-school care of their primary school-aged children. For eight years Cameron and Craig Zammit (who are painters at Liverpool Hospital) started work an hour early at 6am so they can finish in time to pick up their kids from school. Their wives start work late so they can do the school drop-offs.

Liverpool Hospital decided to terminate this arrangement even though the arrangement has no impact on the men’s work. This will stop them from being able to pick-up their children and will cause them significant hardship.

Unions NSW and its affiliates are calling on Premier Berejiklian to honour the NSW Government's commitment to family friendly flexible work practices as Liverpool Hospital has decided its commitment to family friendly workplaces doesn’t apply to dads. To shoe your support we ask you to sign an online petition at:

There is also mounting evidence that some flexible working practices, preferred by employers, can do more harm than good to workers. This happens when “flexibility” encourages an “always on” culture that can have a heavy psychological toll.

When the lines between work and home life become too blurred this can be stressful for many people. A problem is people “grazing” through work by refreshing emails and taking calls outside office hours: recent research found every time somebody performed a work task stress levels went back up. Time for personal hobbies, exercise and healthy cooking and eating are squeezed out by work, too.

Prof Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: “We don’t know why, but there’s pretty good evidence that, for example, there’s a link between psychological circumstances at work and heart disease.”

Please read this recent post which outlines new research which finds that when it comes to work/life balance, having the freedom to work flexibly might not always be a positive force in the lives of employees.