New research debunks the myth of the ‘lazy’ flexible worker

Posted on 28 Sep 2023

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Lazy worker

Pushback by home-based employees against bosses urging them to return to work has received a boost with new research showing they are just as hard working and committed as office-based staff.

Data from the soon to be released Diversity Council Australia (DCA) Inclusion@Work Index revealed that the perception that the ideal worker is in the office, works full-time and is always available not only is incorrect, but can also be harmful to flexible workers.

DCA said the research debunked the assumption that flexible work harms team productivity, with survey results revealing little difference between workers’ performance in the office and at home.

Results from the Inclusion@Work Index showed:

  • 40% of flex workers and 39% of non-flex workers reported they were always willing to work extra hard to help their team succeed
  • 31% of flex workers and 30% of non-flex workers reported their team always looked for new ideas to solve problems
  • equal proportions of flex and non-flex workers (39%) felt their team always worked together effectively
  • 40% of flex workers and 38% of non-flex workers reported their team always provided excellent customer service.

Recently released data from DCA revealed that feeling included by work colleagues and being employed in a flexible environment are two key pillars of employee mental health.

The statistics showed that workers with access to the flexibility they needed to manage work and other commitments were almost four times more likely to feel that their work positively affected their mental health.

However, negative assumptions about their work ethic meant flex workers were more likely to face discrimination and harassment.

“The evidence is clear: if you give people the support and flexibility they need, your employees will flourish and so will your business.”
Diversity Council Australia CEO Lisa Annese.

DCA CEO Lisa Annese said the findings were particularly alarming given that flexible working options are disproportionately accessed by those with caring responsibilities and those from marginalised backgrounds.

“A diverse workforce has diverse needs,” Ms Annese said.

“Access to flexible working options is crucial to fostering more inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive.”

In a recent column for the Community Advocate, Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie said the charity sector was once a workplace leader when it came to flexible working conditions.

“As a charity CEO I could offer more flexibility to employees than would usually be provided by most businesses or government organisations,” he said.

“For employees wanting to study, spend time with family, or care for someone, charities and NFPs could often accommodate their needs better than other workplaces.”

Following the covid pandemic, however, when so many employees were required to work from home, flexibility is no longer unusual in most workplaces.

“Companies are now more likely to go out of their way to meet staff needs as part of their recruitment approach across many more workplaces.”

Ms Annese said the new DCA data helped debunk the myth that flex workers were lazy.

“The evidence is clear: if you give people the support and flexibility they need, your employees will flourish and so will your business.”

More news

Become a member of ICDA – it's free!