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Work/life balance in the public sector

Work/life balance in the public sector

3 months ago By Bryony Reid
Work life balance public sector

Hitting that perfect work/life balance is increasingly being discussed as being key to having a happy and healthy workplace. It’s important for those with caring commitments, and for millennials coming into the workforce who really value this. So, if you’re thinking about a career in the public sector, what can you expect? Does the public sector offer the kind of work life balance you’re looking for?

What do Australians feel work/life balance means?

It’s a bit of buzzword, but what does work/life balance actually mean? According to research by Seek, Aussies have different views about what work/life balance means to them.

  • 34% of workers link having flexibility in their work hours or location to work/life balance
  • 27% of workers think it means when their work doesn’t disrupt their home life
  • 23% of workers think good work-life balance can mean working overtime when needed - but being able to take personal time off when needed too
  • On the other hand, 15% of workers think work/life balance means only ever working your set agreed hours every week and never doing overtime

Public sector vs private sector

‘Should I stay, or should I go?’

  • Pay and rewards
  • Shorter hours/working from home
  • Greater understanding for family life/childcare
  • Open plan space opening to more communication
  • Benefits in terms of working part-time, fixed, flexible or standard hours
  • Extra benefits (accruing leave, health and wellbeing initiatives)

The public sector is a relaxed environment to be in and there is no doubt a greater understanding of external circumstances such as family commitments and travel.

Working hours are an area which the public sector is very open to discussing and moving away from the ‘standard’ label which can be a deal breaker. Most recently we worked with a lady based in the outer suburbs to which travelling in peak hours would increase her workday tenfold.

When this was discussed with the hiring manager, there was no issues, it was a clear they empathised with her and wanted to make sure they did right by her/ In essence she was then able to dictate an earlier start and a later finish as well as having a couple of days working from home.

A moto in which public sector lives by is that; if the work is done the rewards are given, it is a matter of trust and understanding.

Looking deeper at the public sector

Recent research from Microsoft Australia showed that 74% of first line workers and 71% of business managers had difficulties in handling fatigue and workloads in the Australian public sector. 81% of business managers surveyed identified the pressure of work to meet deadlines or expected outcomes as a significant challenge.  

But the positive side shows that the public sector was a leader in creating mobile workplaces.  28% of first line workers and 20% of business managers said they work in a mobile workforce that operates in a range of different locations. This puts the public sector ahead of manufacturing, health and retail industries in terms of mobility.

Ian Heard, Modern Workplace Lead, Microsoft Australia said “There are clear benefits for mobile workplaces and the desire for mobility and agile working is high amongst employees. What the public sector has demonstrated is the ability to manage a mobile workforce spread over metropolitan, regional and rural Australia”.

Asking for flexible working

You may have the right to request flexible working. If you:

  • Are a parent, or care for a child who is of school age or younger
  • Are a carer
  • Have a disability
  • Are aged 55 or older
  • Are experiencing violence from a member of your family
  • Provide care or support to a family member experiencing violence from their family

For new mums making that initial move back to work can be daunting, especially leaving the little one for the first time. Recently we worked with a lady who needed to get back into work but needed a slight stepping stone to ease her back in.

Taking into consideration the circumstances, the local government she secured a contract with allowed her to take on a part time position, working 3 set days a week so she could organize childcare and enjoy time with her baby.

This was never seen as an issue, it was something they expected and would have suggested when it all came down to it. This not only shows the care the Council had but it gave great confidence for the employee that she was making the right choice in her workplace.

Keep this in mind as this applies to the public and private sectors. You can read more about it on the Fair Work Ombudsmen’s website.

Looking for your next role in the public sector?

PSP can support you to find your next role in the public sector – from administration to project management, engineering to town planning. We trust in our clients to provide that flexibility and understanding and want you to trust us in finding you, your perfect work life balance.

Send us your resume