New research from Diversity Council Australia has shown flex workers are just as hard-working, committed, and innovative as full-time, in-office workers.
This year saw Australian workplaces calling workers back to the office, driven by the perception that the “ideal worker” is in the office, works full-time and is always available.
New data from DCA’s upcoming Inclusion@Work Index has shown that not only is this perception harmful to flex workers, it’s also incorrect.
Despite assumptions that flexible work harms team productivity, DCA research found there is no difference between the team performance of flex workers and non-flex workers when it comes to:
- willingness to work hard: 40% of flex workers and 39% of non-flex workers reported they were always willing to work extra hard to help their team succeed
- innovation: 31% of flex workers and 30% of non-flex workers reported their team always looks for new ideas to solve problems
- effectiveness: 39% of both flex workers and non-flex workers felt their team always works together effectively
- customer service: 40% of flex workers and 38% of non-flex workers reported their team always provides excellent customer service
In fact, data released by DCA earlier this month showed that workers with access to the flexibility they needed to manage work and other commitments were almost four times more likely to feel their work positively impacted their mental health.
However, thanks to negative assumptions about their work ethic, flex workers are more likely to face discrimination and harassment (29% vs. 20% of non-flex workers), a figure that has remained relatively unchanged since before the pandemic.
This is particularly alarming given flexible working options are disproportionately accessed by those with caring responsibilities and those from marginalised backgrounds.
“A diverse workforce has diverse needs. Access to flexible working options is crucial to fostering more inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive,” said Lisa Annese, DCA’s CEO.
“We now have proof that flex workers are just as hard-working, effective, and innovative as non-flex workers, debunking the myth of the “lazy” flex worker.
“The evidence is clear: if you give people the support and flexibility they need, your employees will flourish and so will your business.”
Media Contact: Ali Coulton, 0430 242 682 | email@example.com.
Note: In this context, a flex worker is someone who accesses flexible working arrangements such as working from home, reduced or flexible hours, and predictability in working schedule.
Diversity Council Australia’s Inclusion@Work Index findings come from a nationally representative sample of 3000 respondents, all working in Australia. The 2023 data included above comes from our upcoming Inclusion@Work Index which will be released in October. The upcoming report will be DCA’s fourth Inclusion@Work Index, which started in 2017 and provides national benchmarks for Australian workplaces on diversity and inclusion.
The research found no difference between flex and non-flex workers when it came to:
- innovation and problem solving: 31% of flex workers and 30% of non-flex workers reported their team always looks for new ideas to solve problems
- effectiveness in meeting expectations: 39% of both flex workers and non-flex workers felt their team always works together effectively
- customer service offering: 40% of flex workers and 38% of non-flex workers reported their team always provides excellent customer service
- willingness to work hard: 40% of flex workers and 39% of non-flex workers felt they were always willing to work extra hard to help their team succeed
Flexible working options have a positive effect on employee mental health:
- Workers who agreed or strongly agreed they had the flexibility needed to manage work and other commitments were nearly four times more likely to feel work had a positive or very positive impact on their mental health (45%) than those who disagreed that they had the flex they need (12%)
Flex workers are more likely to face exclusion:
- 1 in 4 (29%) flex workers reported experiencing discrimination and/or harassment at work in 2023, significantly higher than workers not accessing flexible options (20%)
- This remains relatively unchanged compared to the 31% of flex workers reporting experience of discrimination and/or harassment in 2019
Flexible working options are disproportionately accessed by those with caring responsibilities and those from marginalised backgrounds. In the past year:
- 3 in 4 (74%) carers reported using flexible working options vs. 58% of workers without caring responsibilities
- 71% of women reported accessing flexible working options compared with 56% of men (who were the least likely to access flex options)
- 71% of workers with a non-Christian religion reported accessing flexible working options compared with 64% of workers with a Christian religion or no religion
- 71% of workers with disability reported using flexible work options, compared to 63% of those without disability
- 70% of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander workers reported using flexible work options, compared to 64% of non-Indigenous workers
Diversity Council Australia is the independent not-for-profit peak body leading diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We provide unique research, inspiring events and programs, curated resources and expert advice across all diversity dimensions to a community of over 1,300 member organisations. Our member organisations are estimated to employ nearly two million Australians, representing more than 20% of the workforce.