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Is being busy in flexible work costing you money?

It always amazes me how many of us still see flexible work as something we’re lucky to have. Until recently that’s how I used
July 11, 2019

It always amazes me how many of us still see flexible work as something we’re lucky to have.

Until recently that’s how I used to think, but what I realised is that unless I put a dollar figure on my time, I was not lucky… I was over working myself and not being paid for it.

“What we often see is women saying to themselves it’s so nice or aren’t I lucky to have flexible work, so they work harder once they get it,” says Christina Smerdon Chief Flex Enabler at Work180.

“But I disagree with that sentiment. All of the work I do in this space is about making it equally accessible to men and women, to remove any stigma’s associated with flexible work arrangements especially the idea that someone should feel lucky or work harder … My central tenet is that flexible working is just work… done differently.” 

Data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that significantly more women have written formal agreements to work flexible hours than men.

In 2017, 833,800 women had written agreements versus 726,700 in 2015. This compares to 749,000 men in 2017 and 685,800 in 2015.

But there are significantly more men with unwritten agreements to work flexibly than there are women.  In 2017, 1.3 million men had informal arrangements versus 1.1 million women, ABS data shows.

A number of global studies, including from Standford University have also found that employees who work in a manner that suits them are more productive. This might be working remotely, shift work, different hours or compressed weeks and job sharing.

For me, job flexibility with a former employer was a positive experience because it allowed me to reduce travel time and spend more time with my kids.

But it became challenging when I asked for a pay rise. The boss’ response was a No, and he reminded me that despite all my extra hours, the job flexibility was payment enough.

Some might argue that the fact I was working overtime, sending emails at midnight and being on call over the weekends reflects something of a management failure.

But I also know that I had a role to play in setting boundaries around my flexible work arrangement.

“It’s important to have a really clear discussion with your employer from the start about flexible work, otherwise you end up doing more to justify your workplace flexibility,” says Jo Palmer founder and managing director of Pointer Remote Roles. “Realistically it’s employers who should be flagging that their staff are doing too much.”

Being able to calculate whether a flexible work arrangement is actually working is a simple equation and it’s one that can be applied to any line of work.

  1. Add up your net weekly salary after tax – minus the net costs of individual, family and shared expenses such as childcare, plus other costs such as food, job-related costs and travel. For example = $600.
  2. Add in your superannuation and any other employer benefits such as insurances and education. For example = $700.
  3. Using that figure and divide by the number of hours you are actually working, including the additional hours such as on days off, or the time spent on late night email checking and even logging on to your work system during holidays or weekends. For example: $700/50 hours = $14
  4. The end figure will give you the net hourly income.
  5. You should then be able to compare this to the sum ($14) to the sum it would be had you worked the hours you were paid to. For example $700/37.5 = $18.6.

If the result of a flexible arrangement is one where you’re diluting your net weekly pay for little gain in advancement or it’s just defeating the whole why premise for why you opted for flexible work in the first place then you either need to cut back on those unpaid extra flexible work hours or have a conversation with your employer about being paid for those.

“People need to set boundaries” says Vanessa Vanderhoek, founder of the annual Flexible Working Day on May 22.

“Some of my boundaries are that I work three days a week and I am really clear about that and when I can deliver things.”

“Many leaders and managers are adopting what they call behavioural nudges, like leaders leaving loudly and saying “hey guys I’m going home and I’ll be working from home tomorrow,” or something like that.”

“Sometimes it is also about saying I have done a good job, and that is good enough,” says Vanderhoek.


This Financy article was first published in the Australian Financial Review and has been republished here with permission. It cannot be republished anywhere else without the expressed written permission of Financy and will be considered a breach of copyright.

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July 11, 2019
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