Government workers in Australia believe their personal well-being is more important than pay when deciding where to work, a new study says.
The Swinburne Edge Center for the New Workforce sought to understand how Australians view hybrid work and flexible schedules. Together with Deloitte's Workplace Integrity Practice, the research team surveyed over 2,000 workers to find out what they think is crucial to their job.
Out of all people asked, government employees place more emphasis on their well-being than those in other sectors. These workers tend to rank factors, such as physical, mental and emotional needs, higher than the money they could earn at work.
Of these respondents, three in five government workers would choose to have more flexibility at work instead of receiving a pay rise. Most of them said they are willing to give up 1% to 3% of their salary to get a flexible work schedule.
Choosing hybrid work
The Swinburne Edge and Deloitte study also made other key discoveries regarding how Australians view hybrid work. Government workers were more keen to do hybrid work than traditional work setups. When they were asked about their preferred location of work, as much as 80% of these respondents chose hybrid or working from home.
The majority (88%) of female government employees select hybrid or home as their preferred location of work. By comparison, only 71% of their male counterparts made the same choice.
Justin Giuliano, lead of the national Workplace Integrity Practice at Deloitte and one of the authors of the study, believes the Covid pandemic may have played a significant role in helping change people’s priorities at work.
"Given what has happened over the last couple of years, flexibility and well-being are key aspects of work that seem to have soared in importance instead of a steady evolution, particularly for government workers who responded to our survey earlier this year," he said.
Despite these changes, the researchers view them as a chance for employers to improve their processes to benefit their organisations overall.
"This is a great opportunity for government organisations to reflect on what they can do to better align their processes, systems and organisational behaviors with worker flexibility," Giuliano pointed out.
Downsides of flexible work schedules
Dr. Sean Gallagher, director of the Center for the New Workforce and co-author of the study, said workers appreciate the advantages of having flexible work schedules. However, he warned that there are still some disadvantages to remember.
"Flexible working allows for better work life-balance, less time commuting, improved mental health, more physical activity and greater contribution to domestic duties; but it can also lead to employees working more hours than they would in the office. Yet 20% of government workers say they are not being compensated for working outside their standard hours, with workload being the main reason," Gallagher said.
The study found a third of workers in Australia have been working for longer hours since the pandemic. In the government sector, nearly half of employees regularly work outside the standard hours. The researchers said this is the lowest result compared to other sectors.
In return for having to work outside of standard hours, government workers would often take time off. However, one in five of them claimed that they were not given compensation for working longer hours.
Dr. Gallagher and his team believe these results point to the potential for compliance risks. This can be seen in the government sector, where employees are often covered by an industrial agreement. These workers are provided with compensation whenever they have to work outside of standard hours.
The researchers recommend governments should take action since flexible work schedules are becoming more common in workplaces.
"Government organisations should be aware of their employees' work patterns when they're working remotely,” Dr. Gallagher said.
“It's a simple equation. Either workloads need to be reduced or workers get some form of compensation for overtime, including time off in lieu. And both will lead to better well-being outcomes.”