7 April 2016, Written by David Simmons and Paris Faint


THE modern workplace is changing, with the regular nine-to-five week taking a back seat in favour of home offices, flexible hours and self-employment.

When Brisbane-based entrepreneurs Cristina Smerdon and Debbie Phillips were in the midst of trawling through new work options for themselves, they discovered there was a significant market for helping other people find alternative career lifestyles as well.

Even though sites such as Seek and Career One have fairly well stitched up the traditional job search market in Australia, Smerdon and Phillips launched Flex Able Jobs to exclusively target skilled professionals seeking flexible work arrangements.

Flex Able Jobs transformed from website to fully fledged business last month, and Smerdon says the service is doing its part to change the way Australia thinks about people who adopt alternative work arrangements.

"We often think of part time or flexible jobs as work for mums, and therefore there's a lot of stigma attached to it," says Smerdon.

"Flexible work is about making it accessible and the new norm for everyone. For example, we have a whole generation coming through who want to work flexibly.

"It's no longer just a women's issue, no longer just about mums, it's a big picture across generations and genders."

The Flex Able Jobs site only lists positions from 'certified' employers who have been interviewed to a set of stringent criteria to see whether flexible work options are actually a reality for the company, not just a smoke-and-mirrors promise.

Smerdon says only the organisations that have aligned values with Flex Able when it comes to work alternatives are invited to list on the website.

"One of the main pieces of feedback we had before launching the site was that there was a lot of organisation that don't walk the talk," says Smerdon.

"We have had experiences where we have gone and met with a company's HR team, and when we get there the response has been 'we know what's on the website, but that's not what we mean here' or they define 'flexible' as only working from home.

"For us the key is integrity, where people who sign up to our site can trust that they can request flexible work placement upfront and they won't be sidelined for asking for it," says Smerdon.

Smerdon says employers are starting to recognise the benefits of a tailored work-life balance, suited to optimise creativity and enthusiasm within its workforce.

She believes the demand for flexible work is increasing and that a multitude of different options will become entrenched within the culture of the average organisation. 

"The way that we work Monday to Friday, nine to five, it's a very industrial revolution way of working; it's very 1900's and not how we get the best out of people," says Smerdon.

"We have research that shows people work optimally at different points in time, and if you allow people to sleep and rest at the right times they are more creative, and moving forward we will have an economy that will thrive on that creativity."

The company has recently certified ANZ as the first company in Australia to earn the official 'flexible employer' status via Flex Able Jobs. 

In the short term, Phillips and Smerdon plan to grow the presence of organisations that come on board with the site, providing them a space for more specifically targeted work arrangements.

Author: David Simmons and Paris Faint





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