Staying flexible: meeting the needs of employees and businesses

Sunshine Coast Private Hospital CEO, Wallis Westbrook

As the workforce evolves, and new pressures build on employees, the need for a better work-life balance can be more apparent in many industries today. That was a key discussion point at the Griffith Business School Alumni Network & Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing’s seminar on flexible working arrangements Friday.

“There’s quite a bit of evidence showing that flexibility and work-life balance policies improve job satisfaction, family satisfaction, work health and work performance,” Said Paula Brough, a panellistat the discussion

Brough, a professor at Griffith’s School of Applied Psychology and part of the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing, says while that balance can come in many forms, it’s most commonly being seen when it comes to scheduling.

“The biggest issue of work-life balance is the flexibility of work time. So can I take a morning, or an hour, to take my child to the doctor and then come back and make up for work later in the evening or the weekend. I think we’ve seen a huge surge in this because increased technology has enabled workers to do this.”

Flexibility in an inflexible industry

Wallis Westbrook, the General Manager of The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital, and the second panellistat the seminar

says his company has been striving to find that balance with their diverse workforce, with many choosing part-time or casual work.

“It’s about looking at the hours that we are offering to people, the sorts of shifts that we can create, the timing of those to ensure they try to fit better with peoples’ lifestyle, and that takes into consideration caring, responsibilities. It takes in consideration to some extent surfing on the coast and things like that” said Westbrook.

Westbrook says flexibility may be a challenge when managing a hospital, especially when dealing with an influx of patients, but it is a challenge they are willing to accept.

“Flexibility for us is trying to ensure we are working with the population group that we want to recruit and retain, but also that we’re ensuring we maintain a hospital in an efficient way.”

Double-edged sword

While technology has been a significant contribution to more flexible work schedules, Professor Brough warns that being consistently available on the other end of an email may not be healthy either, and can lead to employee burnout.

Professor Paula Brough has spent 20 years researching to enhance the psychological health of workers.
Professor Paula Brough has spent 20 years researching to enhance the psychological health of workers.

Every time your phone beeps, and it’s an email from your boss, and you’re on the beach. It’s going to be increased anxiety all the time,” Said Brough.

“Not being able to recover from work, either overnight or weekends or for your holiday vacation time is a very serious issue. What we’re finding is that people are working longer, people are fitting into the ideal worker model, which is where the ideal worker is someone who works longer hours, is heavily committed to their work, will put their work first before their family”.