Seven myths about flexible working and how to debunk them

A major stumbling block to enabling more people to access flexible work and careers are the myths and misconceptions about workplace flexibility that abound. DCA has identified seven commonly held myths about flexible working and presents the facts to debunk them.

Organisations and individuals are discouraged from engaging in flexible work by these myths and misconceptions.

Employers often view flexible work as an inconvenience; as something to accommodate mothers but offering little benefit to the organisation. Many employees want access to flexible work but are discouraged by a workplace culture that views anything other than full-time ‘face-time’ work as second rate.

Unfortunately, this keeps flexible work and flexible careers on the margins rather than mainstream.

DCA is challenging these myths and inaccurate assumptions to explore the real truth about workplace flexibility and its benefits.

Myths and Facts on Flexibility

Myth #1: Flexibility is just an HR tool to help staff balance work-life

Reality: There is a mountain of evidence showing that workplace flexibility is actually a powerful business tool which maximises the performance and wellbeing of organisations, teams, and individuals.

Myth #2: The ideal worker is full-time ‘face-time’

Reality: Flexible workers are as productive, if not more than their non-flexible colleagues. E.g. women in flexible roles are the most productive employees. Men with high commitment to work but who create boundaries between work and home out-perform colleagues. Managers with caregiving responsibilities are rated by their staff as better managers and have more satisfied staff.

Myth #3: Flexibility is just about accommodating an individual’s personal circumstances

Reality: Flexibility works best when it’s designed with the team in mind. It can empower employees to solve problems, increases teamwork, reciprocity and ownership of the solution, reduces management time, and speeds decision-making.

Myth #4: Flexibility is just for new mums

Reality: Flexibility is for all workers for any reason including caring for dependents, personal development, community involvement, lifestyle reasons, to be an active grandparent etc.: Evidence shows all workers, as well as specific groups such as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, men, older and younger workers, want and need flexible work.

Myth #5: Flexibility is just another word for part-time work

Reality: Flexibility is so much more than part-time work. Flexible work is about when, where, and how work is conducted. Flexible careers are about enabling employees to enter, exit, and re-enter the workforce, or increase or decrease their workload or career pace at different life stages.

Myth #6: Flexible workers are less ambitious

Reality: Flexibility boosts workers’ career ambition as research shows that employees’ career aspirations increase when flexible work is provided.

Myth #7: Flexibility doesn’t work in our backyard

Reality: There’s a huge body of research that shows that across all industries, job levels, and job types, flexibility drives financial performance and productivity, is linked to increased revenue, and impacts positively on client service. The secret to flexibility’s success is not picking the right industry, organisation or role – the secret is simply good design and implementation.

Recognising that these misconceptions can infiltrate and undermine the effectiveness of flexibility initiatives is vital. DCA calls on Australian business leaders to heed the warning and work with their teams to reap the rewards of flexibility in the workplace.

DCA members can download the Myth Busting Flexibility Tool from our Research section of this website.