Stacey Hokke, Shannon K. Bennetts, Sharinne Crawford, Liana Leach, Naomi J. Hackworth, Lyndall Strazdins, Cattram Nguyen, Jan M. Nicholson & Amanda R. Cooklin (2020) Does flexible work ‘work’ in Australia? A survey of employed mothers’ and fathers’ work, family and health, Community, Work & Family, DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2019.1704397

Workplace flexibility is perceived to benefit parents yet evidence of the effectiveness of formal work arrangements in promoting parents’ health is mixed, and few have evaluated informal flexibility. This study investigates Australian mothers’ and fathers’ use of formal (employer-provided) and informal (self-directed) work arrangements and associations with work-family conflict and health outcomes (psychological distress, occupational fatigue, burnout). Online survey data from a national cross-sectional sample of 4268 employed parents (one or more children ≤18 years) were collected in 2016. Standardised measures of health outcomes were reported. Analyses were stratified by gender given the gendered division of work and care in Australia. Multivariate linear regression analyses showed greater use of flexible work arrangements (e.g. flexitime, flexiplace) was associated with lower fatigue and less burnout for fathers and mothers. Conversely, higher use of flexible leave arrangements (e.g. purchased leave) and informal arrangements (e.g. performing family-related tasks at work) were each associated with poorer health outcomes. Findings contribute novel evidence on the status of workplace flexibility for Australian fathers and mothers. Flexible work arrangements may have some health benefits, yet the widespread use of informal arrangements suggests flexible workplace provisions alone are not meeting parents’ needs for family-related support.