Flexible work and psychosocial safety

What are the psychosocial risks associated with working from an alternate location?

What is this research about?

Flexible work is becoming more common and the demographics of the Australian workforce is shifting (e.g. ageing population, increase of women participation in management roles, increase of males undertaking caring roles, increased participation of workers with a disability, and global mobility reshaping the profile of organisations). More businesses are providing flexible work arrangements leading to a pressing need for a new and more inclusive WHS framework. Workers are under a combined influence of individual psychological factors and the surrounding social environment on their wellbeing and ability to function.

This project seeks to understand the psychosocial risks that employees may face when working from locations different to their usual place of work, and to develop new strategies to prevent psychosocial harm amongst these employees.

What did the researchers look at?

The researchers explored the potential risks of flexible, remote and ‘working from home’ working practices as new ways of working become increasingly common.

To achieve this, they:

  • Examined the mental health and behavioural risks associated with flexible work arrangements, with a focus on employees within New South Wales;
  • Explored to what degree flexible working employees with diverse characteristics (e.g. age, gender, carer roles, disability, etc.) are exposed to psychosocial risks;
  • Identifed barriers and challenges to improve WHS outcomes for flexible working employees; and
  • Created a best practice approach to improve WHS outcomes for flexible working.

Outcomes

This research highlights that effective WHS systems should comprise of resources and tools tailored to the needs of flexible workers for:

  • identifying and reporting psychological hazards,
  • WHS participation and compliance,
  • fostering a WHS culture of trust and open communication, and
  • integrated capacity and competence building mechanisms (e.g. training and education).

Further, organisations will need to provide adequate resourcing, monitor workloads and boundary management for flexible workers, and ensure that WHS systems and processes support a psychologically safe working environment inclusive of flexible workers. The Best Practice Guide developed through this research will assist managers and workers stay psychologically safe when working flexibly.

A Best Practice Guide for flexible and work-from-home arrangements can be found here.

While the outcomes of this project go through scientific publication, you can access the summary research report here.

Research partners and stakeholders

Edith Cowan University

The University of New South Wales

Southern Cross University

Queensland University of Technology

Sydney Water

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