By turning employee perspectives into personas, i.e. people you might know, it becomes easier to understand their fears and concerns, and identify ways in which their concerns can be alleviated. If they support flexible working, there is the potential to encourage them to advocate and mentor to drive further acceptance.

Capturing their perspectives in this way can enable managers and leaders to better understand the unique communication needs and preferences of their employees and build confidence in having a conversation about flexible working with their teams.

These personas can be used to build empathy for emotions relating to change, provide a context for why they might have a given mindset, and personalise the flexible working arrangements that might suit them best.

By understanding the typical fears and concerns that are contributing to people’s reactions and resistance to a change such as flexible working, agencies can build their communications and capability initiatives around addressing them.

What are the different perspectives on flexible working?

These ‘personas’ summarise some of the attitudes, fears and wants we’ve heard employees in the NSW Government Sector have about flexible working; that is, as a fictional profile of a person created to represent:

  • the different needs, goals, motivations, and behaviours of employees in the government sector,
  • their attitude to flexible working,
  • and how their perspective could be shaped, influenced or helpful for driving implementation of flexible working.

Personas

Claire the contester

Role title: Manager
Employment: Ongoing, full time
Where they’re at with flexible working: Resisting

Claire’s Story

Claire has lived by herself in Sydney’s Inner West since her daughter’s recent move interstate for university. When Claire is not working, she is catching up with friends, exercising and taking weekend trips out of town. She often visits her mother, who needs extra support as she gets older.

She loves going to work each day and her job is a huge part of who she is. She was very successful in the private sector, and is now eager to progress her career in the NSW government sector. Claire believes her success is due to her strong work ethic, and how she has instilled this in her team.

Her attitude to flexible working

Claire is worried flexible working will affect her ability to “run a tight ship” and is afraid it will affect her and her team’s performance.
She worries about systems being slow and unreliable and how that would affect her team’s productivity if they worked off-site.
She has resisted promoting flexible working, as she doesn’t trust that her team will continue to deliver if they don’t work together in the office.
Department and sector leaders talk about the importance of flexible working but she doesn’t see examples of them doing it. It seems to her that it’s more about lip service for people at senior levels.

Claire’s work style

  • Hands on and likes being across all the detail
  • Needs to see team to feel that they are delivering
  • Ambitious and works over and above what is required of her
  • High performer and expect the same from her team

How to engage Claire in flexible working?

  • Increase awareness
    • Show Claire how flexible working can improve her team’s productivity as people who work flexibly are also motivated to do more work.
    • Highlight that there are a variety of flexible working options (not just working from home) that may be available depending on the role and business context
    • Encourage leaders in Claire’s organisation to role model and/or provide regular, visible support for flexible working to encourage uptake.
  • Build skills
    • Provide training and support to Claire to help her take a team-based approach to arranging their work, by focusing on their performance outcomes.
    • Offer her the option to trial or pilot flexible working to build her confidence about how it can be implemented successfully, with checkpoints along the way.
  • Change mindset
    • Encourage Claire to see the ways that flexible working can benefit her and offset her extra time working on the train e.g. more time to see her mum by leaving earlier, or split hours would allow her to go to the gym in off-peak times.
  • Guide implementation
    • Claire’s leader can encourage flexible working initiatives by recognising when it is implemented successfully so that Claire knows that she will not be penalised for having a team working flexibly.
    • Highlight the organisational benefits of flexible working, like improved diversity and inclusion, reduced floor space requirements and less paid unplanned absences by staff working flexibly.

Key messages for Claire

  • Statistics show that people working flexibly also tend to be more engaged, less stressed and more productive
  • Working flexibly will not affect her standing, opportunities or career progression
  • Flexible working is about working smarter, not harder to help you to achieve a balanced home life with the opportunity to pursue personal interests

What flexible working might be relevant to Claire?

  • Flexible start/ finish times
  • Working from home
  • Split hours
  • Career breaks

Sanjeev the sceptical

Role title: Frontline service manager
Employment: Permanent, full time
Where they’re at with flexible working: Sceptical

Sanjeev’s Story

Sanjeev lives in Western Sydney with his wife Sarah and two teenage kids. He has a large extended family and they often eat at each other’s homes. Sarah does the school run, as she works at the kids’ school. They have strong community ties and Sanjeev regularly volunteers.

Sanjeev has been at the frontline of Sydney’s public services for most of his working life, and has enjoyed moving around the sector.. He likes the consistency of his roster and loves coming to work, even though its sometimes tough. He is enjoys what he does, has great friends in his team and is proud when he hears positive comments from customers about the quality of service they’ve received from his team.

His attitude to flexible working

Sanjeev doesn’t see how flexible working is relevant to him, or most of his team, as they need to follow the roster developed for the service to operate.
He thinks flexible working is an excuse for office-based workers to slack off at home and that it’s a waste of tax payers’ money.
Sanjeev thinks that his office-based “leaders” obviously don’t understand how hard it would be to introduce flexible working in rostered workforces and maintain customer satisfaction.
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Sanjeev's work style

  • Reliable, front line worker
  • Manages a team on a standard roster
  • Committed to his job and very patient focused
  • Clocks on, works hard, then switches off when his shift is done

How to engage Sanjeev in flexible working?

  • Increase awareness
    • Work with Sanjeev to build his awareness about the range of flexible working options available and how they could help him attend his children’s school events or family celebrations.
    • Provide him with data that shows colleagues working flexibly are more engaged and motivated to work, which can improve the care provided and patient outcomes.
    • Show him how flexible working can lead to savings and efficiencies in the government sector, such as reduced paid unplanned leave.
  • Change mindset
    • Take a team-based approach by helping him to understand that how his team might want to roster their work with more flexibility
    • Reassure Sanjeev that greater flexibility will reduce pressure on him and his colleagues, as flexible working is shown to reduce employee stress levels.
  • Guide implementation
    • Conduct a pilot or trial flexible working with checks and supports.
    • Promote flexible working through other managers or front-line workers, not just an office-based manager. Emphasise this a policy commitment by the Government.

Key messages for Sanjeev

  • Flexible working is more than flex time and working from home
  • Offering flexible working can give him and his colleagues more time to focus on their personal interests
  • Many frontline services workers already arrange their work flexibly in some way

What flexible working might be relevant to Sanjeev?

  • Flexible rostering
  • Career breaks
  • Working additional hours for time off

Isaac the indifferent

Role title: Executive Director
Employment: 2 year contract, full time
Where they’re at with flexible working: Indifferent

Isaac’s Story

Isaac lives in South Sydney with his wife Rania and their two children who are 5 months and 4 years old. Rania is returning to full time work after six months of parental leave. They recently bought a new house so having two incomes will help them to get ahead on their mortgage.

Isaac is a committed and efficient worker. He recently started an Executive Master of Public Administration course and while he has a lot on his plate with study, work and home, he feels like he’s managing to stay on top of everything -although he doesn’t have much down time.

His attitude to flexible working

  • Isaac knows flexible working has benefits for some people but he hasn’t really thought about it for himself and wonders if it could negatively affect his career progression.
  • He can see the value for primary carers, and people who need to attend courses during the day, but not so much for him.
  • He doesn’t feel he has the time to find out about what flexible working options could apply to him.
  • Between balancing work and study he doesn’t have time or energy to go through the process of putting flexible working arrangements in place.
  • Isaac’s work style
  • Hard worker who is committed to meeting his performance targets
  • Works intensely and is very focused while at work, as he doesn’t have time to do anything outside of standard work hours
  • Driven to perform not only to provide a good life for his family, but also to have a positive effect on the lives of the people of NSW
  • Genuinely interested in his work, and likes that working in public services means his work matters

How to engage Isaac in flexible working?

  • Increase awareness
    • Work with Isaac to build his awareness about the different types of flexible working available and discuss the importance of leaders not only sharing this information with their staff, but also leading by example.
    • Show Isaac people in similar positions who are role modelling flexible working and encourage him to trial it himself. Encourage Isaac to see how his indifference can discourage his teams from asking.
    • Provide Isaac with details and reports that demonstrate that flexible working drives employee wellbeing and the perception of work ease by the people who work flexibly within his division. Emphasise his role as a leader in meeting this policy commitment.
  • Guide implementation
    • Make policies and processes streamlined and easy to understand in order to establish flexible working arrangements.
    • Support Isaac to take a team-based approach to building flexible working into the where, when and how his division arranges its work. By focusing on the outcomes they need to achieve, potential career impacts can be minimised.

Key messages for Isaac

  • It is important for flexible working to be demonstrated at the Executive level to encourage other staff to also work flexibly
  • Implementing flexible working can be beneficial to him, his employees and the department
  • Flexible working is for him too –there are more NSW government employees at the Executive level who work flexibly than not

What flexible working might be relevant to Isaac?

  • Remote working
  • Working from different locations
  • Early and late start times

Sabine the seeker

Role title: Secondary school teacher
Employment: Permanent, full time
Where they’re at with flexible working: Seeker

Sabine's Story

Sabine lives in a share house with another teacher and a nurse in Armidale. She completed her Bachelor of Science/Education (Secondary) and has been teaching at a local high school for just over two years. She has many interests that she actively pursues, including tennis, cooking and learning Japanese.

Sabine really enjoys her job and currently teaches science to students in years 7-9. She loves the idea that she is helping young people to learn and maybe one day become scientists. She wants to further her skills and be better equipped to improve her teaching and progress her career.

Her attitude to flexible working

  • Sabine is exploring, formally through departmental information and informally through colleagues, the flexible working options that might be available that could help her to juggle study and work.
  • She isn’t sure about what is available to her and what the process is to apply for flexible working arrangements, but wants to find out.
  • She has only worked as a teacher for just over two years, and is worried switching to part time will harm her career progression.
  • Sabine thinks team teaching/job share and having a good mentor might help to keep her career on track.
  • Sabine’s school principal works long hours, and an informal culture about staying late has developed. Sabine is worried that leaving to attend lectures will be frowned upon, even though core hours have finished and she has completed the work required.

Sabine’s work style

  • Enthusiastic about what she teaches and tries to encourage her students to care about what they are learning
  • A team player who likes to work with other teachers to come up with initiatives to get students engaged and achieving
  • Likes to keep learning, so volunteers for any opportunities for professional learning that are on offer

How to engage Sabine in flexible working?

  • Increase awareness
    • Provide her with clear information about the flexible working options available to her and her role.
    • Highlight examples in her organisation where other people, including leaders, use flexible working, in order to assure her that flexible working won’t harm her career progression.
  • Change mindset
    • Assure her that flexible working is for everyone, no matter what stage they’re at in their career.
    • Support her to feel that flexible working will not negatively affect her career. Evidence show that NSW public sector employees who work flexibly are just as happy with their career progression opportunities than those who do not.
    • Support the faculty coordinator and school principal to understand the benefits of flexible working practices and promote it through the school.
  • Guide implementation
    • Encourage her to explore with her Principal the flexible working options that might be possible, such as job share arrangements or late starts if she does not have a class first period, and discuss how it might work for a trial period.
    • Ensure there are clear and simple policies and procedures to help her to request and access flexible working options.

Key messages for Sabine

  • Flexible working is open to everybody in the NSW government sector regardless of their grade or years of experience
  • You don’t have to stay late to show commitment to your job. You can do this through enthusiasm and achieving great learning outcomes.
  • Discuss the types of flexibility available with your school Principal, who has the discretion to adapt your arrangements.

What flexible working might be relevant to Sabine?

  • Part time/ job share
  • Career break
  • Deferred salary scheme

Penelope the promoter

Role title: Senior research scientist
Employment: Permanent, full time
Where they’re at with flexible working: Promoter

Penelope's Story

Penelope lives outside Orange with her husband Greg, three school-aged children, two dogs and a cat. They moved from Sydney so they could afford a place with more room and a backyard, and to be close to Greg’s parents.

Penelope is always busy with work, family and other commitments. She helps out at the kids’ school and her family are committed members of a local football and netball club, where they are involved in coaching, fundraisers and events. She likes to read in her downtime, but often settles for audio books when her life is too busy.

Her attitude to flexible working

  • Penelope is both an advocate and active user of flexible working who knows from experience that teams don’t have to sit side by side to deliver. Statistics show that people are more engaged and motivated to work if they work flexibly.
  • She feels flexible working is seen as more complicated than it actually is. It’s about finding arrangements and systems that work for the team.
  • Thinking creatively when it comes to staying in contact with her team, and planning and sharing work, can help make flexible working simpler.
  • The trust that she has in her team, and the trust they have in her to work together and contribute to delivering means they can achieve great results while working flexibly.

Penelope’s work style

  • Positive, professional and efficient worker who is an expert in the field of water research
  • Collaborative, trusting and inclusive, and has leadership qualities that result in her acting in higher positions regularly
  • Does a mixture of working from home and in the office, as well as sometimes traveling long distances to conduct her work
  • Hard worker who, despite being busy, finds time to share her knowledge and work collaboratively with her team to conduct their research

How to engage Penelope in flexible working?

  • Guide implementation
    • Provide Penelope with tools and processes so she can be a leader in showing the positive effects that flexible working can have on employees, business and the community.
    • Give her the opportunity to actively promote flexible working in her organisation, such as through presentations, as a case study on your agency website, coaching other managers and promoting it through departmental networks.
    • Provide a platform that can help Penelope to mentor others in how to successfully arrange and implement flexible working practices, to help her agency meet this policy commitment.
    • Encourage continued conversation with her manager and her team about her flexible working arrangements to make sure they continue to be suitable, and allow for adjustments if required.

Key messages for Penelope

  • Flexible working doesn’t have to be complicated or hard to arrange
  • Flexible working should be mutually beneficial
  • Successful flexible working arrangements can be shared to help show others the benefits

What flexible working might be relevant to Penelope?

  • Remote working
  • Compressed hours
  • Adjusting start and finish times

Workplace sessions for managers and employees

Check out our flexible working workplace sessions for managers and employees. These resources support you to offer flexible working awareness and engagement sessions for your agency’s employees and managers.