They find their working environment more positive, they sleep better, and if they're older, a caregiver, or have disabilities, they're at less risk for negative health outcomes. It's a good thing employers in Australia are open to the hybrid working model, because a new study commissioned by the NSW government has found that flexible workers are on the whole doing better, health-wise, than in-office workers.
"It’s reassuring to see that for the most part, working flexibly can be a very positive experience for workers,” said Skye Buatava Director of the Centre for Work Health and Safety.
The study also found indications that flexible workers are more likely to be happy with their organisation simply because they feel it prioritises their well-being and psychological safety - no small factor at a time when Australia has given up on COVID zero and lockdowns have just lifted yet again. They also put great value on being trusted by their employer, and particularly by their line manager.
On the other hand, the study also found ongoing gaps in health and safety support for flexible workers, who rated their safety compliance and safety participation significantly lower than their in-office counterparts - perhaps natural, given that people in their own homes are less likely to feel the need for precautionary measures.
Two health and safety areas that employers and flexible workers need to be cautious about are their work station setup and their work-life balance. The study found that many flexible workers do not have an ergonomic work station, and most organisations don't offer financial support for setting one up. And flexible work is damaging to work-life balance, a fact already raised since last year - but despite it being common knowledge, many organisations don't provide workers with training around mental health issues while working from home.
The Centre for WHS's Buatava advised employers to look into formalising their flexible and remote working procedures, particularly for health, wellness, and safety. “The shift to flexible work has been dramatic due to COVID restrictions and we need to ensure that businesses have up to date policies and procedures for their workforce, whether in the office or not," she said.