Flexible work stories
Right to Information Commissioner
What’s your personal flexible work story?
My story starts in 1994. My first child was 2 years old and I had returned to work as a Legal Policy Officer after taking 12 months maternity leave. I asked my supervisor if I could job-share—at this time there was no award or directive relating to part-time work for family responsibilities. My supervisor agreed to a job-share trial—I worked 3 days and my job-share partner worked 2 days.
This arrangement continued for six years, we went through a number of machinery-of-government changes and further maternity leave. In 2000, my job share partner decided to accept a full-time position elsewhere in the department. I then commenced job sharing with another person until they recently retired. During this time, we applied for and were jointly appointed to Manager, Legal Services Unit; Director, Legal Services Unit; and ultimately as Right to Information Commissioner in 2010.
What is the key to flexible work?
The key to a successful job-share arrangement is communication between the 2 officers and seamless service to internal and external clients. In all our roles we have managed staff. It is the responsibility of the officers job-sharing to ensure they reach a common approach on issues and communicate that clearly. Each person should have sufficient knowledge of the job to ensure queries can be managed in an efficient and timely manner. Flexible work is a huge benefit and officers should demonstrate to their managers how it will work and ensure there is no disruption to the organisation’s delivery of services. This may mean taking phone calls out of designated office hours from time to time.
I currently manage a number of flexible work arrangements within Office of the Information Commissioner from the SO level down. In some cases, we have officers who work remotely for part of the week, others work part-time or compressed hours and others job-share. We ensure we have systems in place to support these arrangements as far as possible, but again, I expect my staff to ensure the arrangement works.
What advice would you give to managers and employees about flexible work?
When commencing such an arrangement, managers should ensure staff understand the expectations and parameters of the arrangement. It should be regularly discussed, including at performance planning meetings. Managers should also be appropriately flexible and cognisant of setting appropriate timelines. It works best where all parties cooperate to achieve the same end.
Department of Education and Training
What’s your personal flexible work story?
I have had a wonderful experience with flexible work thanks to an extremely supportive employer and a strong commitment from all parties to make it work. I have been with the Department of Education and Training since 1992, but moved to the Sunshine Coast in 2001, when my role was still attached to Central Office in Brisbane.
I was appointed Media Manager for the department in 2001, but being a statewide role it did not matter where the position was based, so long as I was responsive to the needs of the Ministerial Office, senior executives of the organisation, as well as journalists, on a 24/7 on call basis. It has worked quite seamlessly since that time.
How did the early conversations with your manager/s about flexible working go?
Under the arrangement, I worked part of the working week (usually Mondays and Fridays) out of the department’s North Coast Regional Office and the remainder of the week in Brisbane. That posed a few initial complexities in that I needed my own Director to be supportive, the Ministerial and Director-General’s office to be on board as well as the North Coast Regional Director. There also needed to be physical office and desk space available. Everyone was very positive about the arrangement from the get go and that has continued to this day.
What was the impact on the team and what happened to make it a success, or not?
The impact on my media and public affairs teams has been negligible. The critical success factor has always been about being available to take that call or to respond quickly to an email to provide the same level of advice no matter where I am. Our department has a deep commitment to its employees having a good work-life balance, and that is particularly evident with how much the organisation has supported me over such a long time. That level of trust in your reliability, your responsiveness and your commitment to get the work done professionally and within deadline, makes it easy for me to stay motivated and provide the very best level of service I can in return.
How do you and your manager ensure business needs are met?
I never know the shape of the monster that is going to walk through my door on any given day and that makes my job all the more interesting. It keeps you on your toes and helps me stay as sharp as I can in responding to enquiries or just dispensing advice. Much of our media work has tight turnarounds with deadlines measured in minutes and hours, not so much days and weeks. In that respect, I hate missing deadlines and you can only be as good as the team that you have. Fortunately, I have a team of highly motivated go-getters that I think are well respected right throughout our great organisation. I like to think that they are known as much for their efficiency as they are for their proficiency. I am very proud to work with them and very proud to work in the department.
What would you recommend to employees and managers starting their flexible by design journey?
Flexible work is not for everyone, but when implemented in the right way, for the right person, at the right time, they can lead to tremendous business efficiencies. In many cases, it is about having the right mind set to be able to work remotely and independently, in the same way you would if you were in your base location. The secret is having a commitment for such an arrangement to work well not only for yourself, but for your business unit and your organisation. I am ever thankful that it has worked well for me and the department.