Our shifting priorities

Flexibility, easy commutes and a satisfying work culture are in high demand, writes Ross Larkin.

Flexibility, easy commutes and a satisfying work culture are in high demand, writes Ross Larkin.

Employees are looking for a more satisfying work culture, flexible hours and an easier commute, new research reveals.

Fairfax Media employment research indicates the workplace is changing, with 66 per cent of respondents saying they would be willing to switch jobs to better fulfil these needs. Flexible working conditions are in especially high demand, while 73 per cent of respondents rated a good work culture as essential.

"We all lead very complex lives, and we're probably working longer and harder in our workplaces today," Performance Frontiers managing director Gretel Bakker says.

"If we can be more flexible as leaders and understand the needs

of our employees' private lives,

we're going to have a much

happier workplace and level of productivity."

Clinical psychologist Dr Annie Curtis has identified the reasons for employees preferring more flexible jobs, as well as benefits for both employees and employers.

"Many psychological attitudes are included in a worker wanting both flexibility and casual and part-time work, such as trying out a job before starting a career, [or] building up a resume or CV to gain experience," Curtis says.

"Workers who have more access to flexible work arrangements report greater job satisfaction and significantly better mental health than other employees. [They] are more likely to be committed to their employers and plan to stay at their current company.

"Flexible work arrangements provide significant benefits to both employees and employers. Organisations with higher levels of employee satisfaction describe more satisfied customers, higher profits, and better returns for shareholders."

A level of ease when commuting is also important to many respondents, specifically in terms of proximity and the ability to avoid a lengthy commute.

"I'm constrained if I've got after-school care and creche booked," public relations worker Kathryn van Kuyk says. "I really want the work-life balance ... to not stay at home and lose my skills.

"However, I can't justify the two hours of travel for me every day. It's important to be back near home by 6pm. If the train runs late and you can't do a turnaround in an hour, you can't make it in time."

Bakker says she has encountered clients who have young children and have turned jobs down because of a lengthy commute. "Congestion is rife at the moment," she says. People are "definitely choosing a job based on how far the commute is".

Bakker believes a difficult commute contributes to high levels of anxiety, stress, anger and frustration, and says such conditions are "not conducive to our working environments".

In terms of work culture, the study also found that 78 per cent of respondents were affected by colleague and management relationships to the point where both were deciding factors in retaining or leaving a role.

"Organisational culture ... shapes the behaviour of individuals and groups," Curtis says, adding that it can affect productivity and, if positive, can create feelings of identity and commitment to an organisation.

Van Kuyk says it's pointless being in the right role without a positive work culture.

"There's a lot of things that contribute to your happiness at work," she says. "It's really important for morale, support, helping each other with development, teaching others, and sharing your experience so the organisation can actually succeed, not just the individual."

Curtis adds that "paid work has become more intense. Understaffing, expanded workloads ... increased responsibilities and the accelerated pace of work are associated with time scarcity and lifestyle stresses.

"Some of the organisational and cultural roadblocks to a flexible working environment - and hence better mental health - include a ... lack of senior management commitment and support."

Learning is also considered to be important to work culture, with 82 per cent of respondents wanting to work for a company that gives them training and support.

"Some industries are going through a really difficult time and they either make their staff redundant or stop training and development - one of the silliest things you could possibly do in the workplace," Bakker says.

"Job satisfaction is the extent of pleasurable emotional feelings that individuals have about their jobs overall. It's different to ... satisfaction with particular facets, such as pay, pension arrangements and working hours."

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