By Tracy Hocking. Digital Content & Social Media Advisor, DCA
When I joined the DCA team a few years ago, I simply viewed the flexible working arrangements available as a pleasant bonus. My kids were older and reasonably independent and there were no other family members who were in need of my special care or attention. Consequently, I wasn’t looking for a job with flexibility. I didn’t think I needed it.
However, the benefits of the working from home a few days a week and being able to take time out in the middle of the day to deal with a personal or domestic matter quickly became apparent. Simply not needing to do the one hour commute each way every day gave me the precious gift of time, which I sometimes kept for myself and the family, but also chose to give back some days, by starting and finishing work at the times I would normally begin and end travelling to the office.
Stress levels were down and energy up. I believe I became a better parent, partner, friend and employee as a result.
Yet, the real benefits of flexible working emerged following unexpected results from some medical tests last year. In December 2017 I underwent major brain surgery on a growing tumour. I needed completely rest for several weeks, was unable to drive for months and told to limit personal interactions as this could put an added stress on a brain recovering from the trauma I had undergone during the eight+ hour procedure.
Six weeks post-op I had the all clear to ease my way back into work. Working from home a few hours each day was the recommendation. Could that be arranged? Absolutely!! I was already set up for this. There was no added stress created by the need to implement new systems, strategies or equipment. It was all there and ready to go. Coming back to work in this way was the best rehab I could have asked for, physically, mentally and emotionally.
I am now having daily radiotherapy and working adjusted hours around treatment sessions. I have been able to start this regime with confidence that as my energy levels wain and capacity to concentrate declines I can adjust my work pattern accordingly, thanks to pre-existing flexible working arrangements and a very supportive employer and colleagues. Not only is this great for me, but I sincerely hope that this will result in my absences not creating a significant added burden on the rest of the hardworking team at DCA.
Approximately 20% of Australians have some form of disability or significant health condition. 2.1 million Australians of working age (15 – 64 years) have a disability (Australian Network on Disability). Accurate data on the number of people with disabilities in your employ can be difficult to gather as many have ‘invisible illnesses’ and choose not to share their health status, particularly in the case of mental health problems. But it is recommended that employers work on the assumption that 10% of their staff have some form of disability. For many of these employees standard workplace flex would make life and work a whole lot better.
So don’t wait for that request for flexible working arrangements on a reasonable adjustments application. Make flex mainstreaming in your organisation today. Everyone might not need or want it today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring.
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