Research

COVID study identifies WHS gaps in flexible work

A recent study has shown that workers' experiences with flexible work during the pandemic have been "very positive", with benefits to wellbeing. However the study has highlighted gaps in WHS support for these workers, and identified seven elements that support safe flexible work.

The NSW Government's Centre for Work Health and Safety’s study of over 1,000 workers with flexible arrangements during 2020’s COVID-19 lockdown found they were more rested and more engaged, reporting a more positive working environment than their office-based counterparts. The study was in collaboration with Edith Cowan University, Southern Cross University, the University of NSW, and Live Better.

The Centre's director Skye Buatava said working flexibly can be a very positive experience for workers, but some employers lacked adequate WHS processes and mental health training for such work.

The study also found that:

  • social isolation was a major psychosocial risk factor for flexible arrangements;
  • flexible workers placed high value on feeling trusted by their line manager and employer;
  • the experience of flexible and remote work was different for workers in different demographics;
  • both flexible workers and managers felt responsibilities around WHS issues for home work were unclear.

The seven elements required for psychologically safe and productive flexible work are:

  1. Senior leadership commitment;
  2. Frequent organisational communication;
  3. Accessible line manager support;
  4. Workers' commitment to flexible working and wellbeing;
  5. Adequate resourcing;
  6. Adaptive training and development; and
  7. Tailored work designs for flexible working.

Read more: Centre for Work Health and Safety Flexible work and psychosocial safety; Summary Research Report; and A Best Practice Guide for flexible and work-from-home arrangements. Source: OHSAlert. Read more: Teleworking - or working from home 

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