Millennials fooled by brutal work reality
Flexible working hours are top of the list of requirements for young Australians looking for a new job.
But scoring a flexible arrangement is no easier now than it was way back in 2001, according to data in the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.
YouGov data provided to news.com.au shows flexibility is important to four out of five workers under the age of 40.
"The growing preference for flexibility is a sign that companies across Australia need to keep up with the demands of modern Australian workers," says Levi Aron, spokesman for Deliveroo, which commissioned the research.
"Not only do a majority of Australians value flexibility, but nearly half say that they would be influenced by good benefits when choosing a company."
But if flexibility is sought keenly by new recruits, they're not having much success in achieving it.
The most recent HILDA survey that found one in two respondents disagreed with the statement "I have a lot of freedom to decide when I do my work".
Professor Mark Wooden, from Melbourne University's faculty of business and economics and director of the HILDA survey told news.com.au the data showed flexibility hadn't changed much since 2001.
"I would think that the only reason you might think that we have all this flexibility are changes in the occupational structure," he said.
"There are a lot fewer blue-collar jobs, where going to the toilet had to be well planned."
FLEXIBILITY COMES WITH COSTS
Freddy Grant, 33, from Footscray in Melbourne, changed jobs and, at first, took a big cut in the search for more flexibility.
"I was an ESL teacher at Darwin University and that meant I had to be at school every day at 7am to start at 8.30," he said.
"You're tied to your location, even taking sick days messes up everyone else, There is a big lack of flexibility."
He changed jobs, starting as an intern before getting a full-time role. "To begin with I did take a pay cut," he said.
But he acknowledged it wasn't for everyone.
"It's a double-edged sword. I have flexibility with my work, I can work anywhere I like, but you end up doing very long days," he said.
Professor Wooden said the balance of power had shifted in favour of employers to set flexible terms - for instance in the case of casuals - and the related issue of underemployment, where workers don't get enough work, had grown since the global financial crisis.
"We've seen a big reduction in people working too many hours, but we've seen a big increase in underemployment (since the GFC)" he said.
"Unions would argue flexibility is all one-sided and favours the employer."
THE FULL-TIME COMPROMISE
But Bob Gregory, Emeritus Professor in the Research School of Social Sciences at ANU, told news.com.au "young people have never had it better in terms of the availability of flexible jobs", and anyone who wanted a flexible job could find one - it just may not be the one they want.
"If you want a full-time job - a full-time job you can treat casually - well, that's going away," he said. "The labour market is splitting into two types of job.
"Full-time jobs are getting more full time - when you want flexibility, then you've got to find it in the part-time labour market."
Clearly, some people want flexibility. The YouGov data from Deliveroo lines up with other data from comparison site Finder. It found 56 per cent of respondents wanted flexible work hours or flexible arrangements in the workplace.
Female respondents valued flexibility the most, with 64 per cent expressing a preference, compared with males at 47 per cent.
Fred Schebesta, co-founder at finder.com.au, said the onus was on businesses to be flexible.
"Creating a truly flexible work environment in terms of how, where and when people work is key to retaining talent and unleashing greater productivity," he said.
"But flexibility is so much more than just giving people the freedom to work outside 9am-5pm; it's about catering to the needs of your team and creating programs that are meaningful to them."
IT'S TIME FOR BUSINESSES TO STEP UP
According to the FlexCareers 2018 Workplace Flexibility Report, 67 per cent of respondents said accessing flexible working arrangements would impact their ability to progress their career or be considered for a promotion.
Mr Schebesta said it was concerning people thought accessing flexibility could have a negative impact on their progression.
"People shouldn't have to worry about hindering their career progression if they need more flexibility," he said.
"We all have lives and families and commitments outside of the workplace. If businesses are too rigid and don't allow flexibility, they will suffer a miserable work culture."
David Ross is a freelance finance writer. Continue the conversation @FakeDavidRoss