In March 2016, the NSW government committed to making flexible work a normal
part of the workplace for both men and women. The initiative called All Roles Flex
and declared one hundred percent of public service jobs would be flexible by 2019.
The Premier’s Priority recognised that the culture of employees being tied to their
desks from 8am to 6pm was an outdated one that reduced productivity, hindered
wellbeing, and shut many women out of the workforce.
The powerful ‘if not, why not’ statement meant that all agencies across the public
sector had a bold flexible work goal to achieve.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet had already been working with Grace
Papers to reduce the rate of parental leave turnover, so when the All Roles Flex
initiative was announced, the department turned to Grace Papers to make their 2019
target a reality.
Grace Papers analysed employees’ swipe data which revealed junior employees
were mirroring leadership’s work hours.
This pattern indicated that even if there was an option to take up flexible work, and an initiative to drive it home, employees may not have accepted the offer if their managers weren’t role modelling flexible working arrangements.
The solution quickly became all about culture and inclusion. Grace Papers worked
with the department to redevelop the leadership narrative and a new vision for
successive Secretaries. Grace Papers provided full communications support –
including stories, FAQs, and videos – to deliver the new messaging to all employees.
The key work, though, was the delivery of a series of flex workshops that equipped
people leaders with the tools to have the right conversations with their team
members, as well as explore flexible work for themselves. Flexibility was reframed as
a vital initiative for all, instead of an option for mothers.
Within the first year, the percentage of employees satisfied with accessing flexible
working arrangements rose from 69 to 80 (an increase of 11 percentage points). In
2020, this figure has risen to 82. Job-share Directors of People, Culture and Talent,
Brooke Black and Sonia Dametto, believe it is now part of the department’s cultural
DNA with flexibility working for individuals, teams, customers and the department.
“Our partnership with Grace Papers has been key to our All Roles Flex strategy and
to DPC NSW having one of the highest employee satisfaction scores in the public
sector,” Black said. “The critical insight from Grace Papers was the need for DPC to
expand the notion of flexibility from being about individual flexibility to one that
presumed all people needed flexibility to care for themselves, families and others.
Grace Papers Head of Flexibility and Coaching Amanda Meehan said one of the
most transformative features of the flex workshops is unearthing the outdated
expectations and judgements people have around work, and how work should be
done. By increasing awareness of the biases and giving employees the opportunity
and agency to change their individual mindsets, culture change can happen very
quickly – and on a collective level.
“What’s fascinating about DPC is how they turbo-charged the dialogue,” Meehan
said. “This allowed employees and managers to break free from thinking of flexible
work as a benefit only for new parents or mothers.”
The initiative has continued to increase gender balance across DPC and close the
policy/practice gap, fostering gender equality and enabling more women to see
pathways into leadership positions. The proportion of female senior leaders has risen
from 53 percent in 2017 to 63 percent in 2021. Senior staff are actively choosing to
stay because of their ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Lauren Anderson, Director Inclusive Communities and her partner Amanda
Lawrence – currently on secondment from DPC to Resilience NSW – claim they have
been able to parent equally because of the flexible working culture.
“We truly are able to be 50/50 parents when it comes to hand-on stuff like doing pick-
ups and drop-offs and taking days off when Harvey is sick, which is really important
to us,” Lawrence said. “No-one is the ‘main’ parent, and he sees both of us as having
equally important careers.”
Amanda Meehan said the department’s vision for flexibility was one deeply rooted in
social change. Flexibility was repositioned through the lens of care for self, care for
others, and care for the community. Six years on, the benefactors of this culture
change are not just DPC employees, but the individuals and the communities they