“There needs to be a change[d] workplace culture in Australia. Flexibility is the key.”
~ Nicole Lessio, acting executive director of The Parenthood
An inability to attain a cohesive work-life balance is increasingly becoming identified as the major problem for a vast amount of the Australian workforce. As Work Health and Safety researches at RMIT have discerned, there are a number of factors that account for this growing cultural concern: such as “demographic changes, the aging workforce, low birth rates, dramatic increases in dual-earner couples and the changing expectations of younger generations of Australian workers.” In order to mitigate the negative effects of work-life imbalance, researches concluded that we must change the nature of our workplace, introducing greater elements of “flexibility, time adequacy, and control.”
Professionals are now coming to understand the devastating impacts work-life imbalance can have upon individuals and those surrounding them. It is a topic that has gained increasing interest from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, as the far-reaching impacts of the issue have come to light. Poor work-life imbalance has not only be linked to an increase in stress levels, fatigue, mental disorders and unhealthy behavioural choices, but it has also been proven to have greater effect on our physical health, creating a higher risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. Even if these consequences are not felt immediately, the results of the Gallup Work and Education study found that these negative ramification could emerge unexpectedly in older age. It is therefore urgent that we take measure to protect ourselves against these potentially unseen dangers.
Many individuals have opted for contract employment as a means of tackling these pressing issues and employing RMIT’s recommended element of flexibility into their professional life. The number of individuals working in temporary jobs and part-time contracts has risen from one in ten to one in three in the mere space of twenty-five years. As contractors are able to determine their own working schedules, they are able to create a unique working approach that compliments their individual commitments, passion, and lifestyle. Rather than styling one's lifestyle around a given working structure, a structure is fashioned which suits them. As result, this career path is gaining increasing popularity within Australia, allowing individuals to gain greater enjoyment and satisfaction over the various areas of their lives.
Here is a look at a few of the ways in which contract employment can benefit the modern individual:
A study undertaken by the Centre for American progress found the 90 percent of working mothers and 95 percent of working fathers reported experiencing work-family conflict. Evidently, these statistics can be seen to bear a striking similarity to the current state of Australia’s workplace. In another study, in which 37 countries were ranked in order with positive work-life balance for parents, Australia placed only slightly above the United States, which came in at number 37.
Adelle Kehoe, the head of this research, claimed that the majority of Australia’s work system is “outdated and unfair”, running the risk of “alienat[ing] younger generations seeking a better work-life balance for their families.”
Failure to maintain a healthy balance between work and family lives can have devastating effects, placing the family under more financial pressure, while causing stress on relationships, individuals wellbeing and the home environment.
As a result, many individuals have used contract employment as a way to effectively balance their family commitments with their professional lives. The flexible working options of contracting allows individuals to arrange their job around changing commitments. The short-term nature of most contract jobs allows contractors to constantly reconfigure their professional lives around unexpected family commitments that may emerge, complimenting the unpredictable nature of life. Additionally, the contractors control over where they will work liberates them from the confines of a single location and allows informed decisions to be made as to how the contract would align to their situation at any point in time. Additionally, where there are options to work remotely, the distance from the workplace may offer as many benefits for the business as it does for the contractor, as research suggests that workers tend to be thirteen percent more efficient when working remotely than when working exclusively in the office/primary place of work.
Through the control that contract employment offers, individuals can ensure that the appropriate amount of time is set aside for the enjoyment and responsibilities of their lives around them, without expending their energies and efforts to their limits.
In our highly demanding modern world, it is often our personal projects, goals, hobbies and passions that are the first thing to be sacrificed for the sake of time-saving. As Charles Handy wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “We are in danger of populating companies with the modern equivalent of monks, who forgo all else for the sake of their calling.” In fact, in many structures of full-time employment, this sacrifice is almost a given. The hours we often hear about people working over and above what is reasonable indicates there is a subconscious psyche that we are putting the company’s interests ahead of our own. Although we all need to work and contribute, ensuring we remain aware of our own identity is key to positive mental health.
It is for this reason that many ambitious individuals have utilised contract employment as a means to ensure their continued pursuit of individual goals; whether these come in the form of developing their own business/brand, or continuing their education to ensure they maintain a relevant skillset. Through control their hours of work, contractors can ascertain that their dreams are not placed on a back-burner, while financially supporting themselves through their achievement. Additionally, And where the opportunity exists, individuals can organise their work schedules in a way that may allow them to undertake multiple contracts at once, ensuring a greater financial gain in a shorter period of time.
Furthermore, investing in a career path with a flexible structure has been proven to be of tremendous benefit to our holistic wellbeing. Research by the Queensland Government has listed reduction of stress levels, greater focus and concentration, higher levels of job satisfaction, opportunities to participate fully in family and social life, more time to pursue personal goals and hobbies, and improved mental and physical health, as just a few of the many ways a healthy work-life balance can improve an individuals wellbeing.
Rather than remaining limited to a mere two weeks of vacation a year, a contractor can choose to take a vacation at any time they please, for however long they please, without having to gain the permission of an employer. Equally, due to their ability to work remotely, contractors may continue earning money while away from the office environment, depending on the nature of their industry.
Consequently, contract employment can feel entirely liberating for many individuals, allowing them to experience the world without feeling guilty for leaving the workplace. As contractor Jenna Meister said when interviewed by ABC news, this career path gives me the freedom to see the world on my own terms.
While contractors do not receive the employment-benefit of paid leave, the higher remuneration rates typically experienced by contractors more than compensates for this difference. The higher hourly pay rate, ability to choose a structure of payment, and a greater ability to gain tax-related compensation, can often see contract workers earning enough money to reimburse for the typical pay of vacation leave, with additional funds remaining.
When examining these benefits, it is not hard to see why one in three Australian’s are now opting for this form of employment. By offering a flexible working structure, it allows individuals to generate a healthy work-life balance which consequently leads to a lowering of stress levels and increase in work-related performance. In a study undertaken by Qnnect, 59 percent of millennial workers believed more flexibility would improve their output and productivity. Evidently, it is not only the individual contractors who will rep the benefits from this line of work, but also the business, who may receive higher-quality work that saves them money.
There is a variety of reason for which we should consider contract employment as a viable career path, the flexible working structure appearing to be a major benefit for a growing number of individuals. In a world that is becoming increasingly unpredictable and ever-changing, the demands for a flexible work structure are only going to grow. Luckily for us, the answer is already here.