Flexible working can enhance productivity, work-life balance, knowledge sharing and collaboration. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of flexible working among office workers, and most employees now want to work from home at least some of the time. The Australian Capital Territory Public Service (ACTPS) has positioned flexible working as central to their vision to be the most progressive Australian jurisdiction for workplace practices (ACT Government, 2021) and an employer of choice for employees seeking flexibility. Like many organisations looking to develop optimal ways of managing a flexible workforce, the ACTPS has sought to better understand employee preferences and patterns of work, as well as key risks to equitable and effective flexibility.

This research was established to help identify how the ACTPS can better support effective flexible working, focused on the role of technology, communication tools and the built environment. The research focused on knowledge workers, whose work is generally suitable for flexible working as they work autonomously to undertake knowledge-intensive tasks. It was also focused on the perceptions of middle managers and employees, to inform the ACTPS of how to improve support for effective flexible working.

The research adopted a mixed methods approach gathering qualitative data from ACTPS Flexible Work Working Group meetings and focus group discussions with human resource (HR) managers and general staff. It also involved the secondary analysis of existing datasets (e.g., ACTPS employee census, Microsoft 365 data, building and meeting room data).

Key findings:

  • ACTPS staff value the opportunity to work flexibly. Most research participants were satisfied with their level of choice regarding when, and where they work. Therefore, a key retention factor for the ACTPS is continuing to provide employees flexibility and choice in timing and location of work.
  • There has been a move to hybrid working arrangements, with many staff being encouraged to work from the office one or two days a week. However, most staff are predominantly working from home and want to continue to do so to support individual productivity and work-life balance.
  • Managers play a central role in the effectiveness of flexible working; however, some managers seem to be experiencing greater work-life spill-over.
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