Flexibility in the workplace: What can be learnt from the not-for-profit sector

by External12 Mar 2013

The Prime Minister has made flexible working arrangements a key election issue. Adam Blatch outlines the key lessons learnt at one not-for-profit organisation.

As the government moves to introduce greater flexible working, the not-for-profit sector may well be the ideal place to look for best practice if this is set to become an election issue.

All parties need look no further than a charity like Camp Quality, the children’s family cancer charity, where I head up the People and Culture team, to see how flexible working arrangements help to attract the best talent.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently said: “This is about giving more workers a better balance between work and family.”

That elusive balance can be tricky to achieve in any sector. It’s crucial for the not-for-profit sector to get this right. As a family charity, I feel duty-bound to ensure Camp Quality is a family-friendly employer. It’s key that we practice what we preach.

Working parents are very attracted to Camp Quality. Labor’s proposed changes would allow staff with caring responsibilities – such as school-aged children – to request flexible work arrangements. This already happens at Camp Quality: we offer flexible start and finish times, the option to work from home, job sharing options and parental leave pay above the government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme.

We also offer something quite unique. Each member of staff receives 10 ‘Fun Days’ (one day off a month for 10 months of the year) where they get the opportunity to spend quality time with their families and enjoy a healthy work-life balance. This is over and above the annual leave allowance and recognises the commitment beyond nine-to-five often required with working for a not-for-profit, especially in fundraising roles.

Creating a positive, fun culture is beneficial in the competitive environment in which charities are currently operating. Camp Quality’s core value is optimism: if there’s one thing all of our programs are designed to deliver for children living with cancer and their families, it is this. But it doesn’t stop there. Optimism flows through everything we do. Every meeting starts with ‘fun therapy’ – a short activity or game to set an optimistic tone. Hangman is one of our favourites! When you walk into our office you’ll see a ‘goofiti board’ – a space for positive and funny messages – and you’ll be asked to contribute to it on your way out. We live and breathe the optimistic values that we teach.

As such, we’re not just an ‘employer of choice’. We’re recruiting from a significant pool of talent that’s sometimes overlooked in the workplace: working parents. Some parents come to work at Camp Quality for the laughter and fun (which makes them more productive in return). At home is where the real work starts!

There are significant benefits to the organisation for offering these staff incentives. As an organisation that places culture on an equal footing with strategic development, staff feel a greater sense of belonging in supporting the strategy, which results in greater productivity. How do I know this? Camp Quality has huge growth targets over the next four years – in terms of increasing our reach (for the children and families living with cancer who access our programs) and for fundraising to support that. For example, one year into an ambitious strategic plan, we’re on track to grow our fundraising from $13m to $25m within five years.

In short, that’s how a game of hangman can help double your organisation’s income.


About the author 

Adam Blatch is the General Manager of People and Culture at Camp Quality      



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