If you love flexible work hours, variety in your role, a social environment, and the ability to make a real difference in someone’s life, you might find yourself drawn to Support Work.
However, statistics show that many men are hesitant to pursue this highly rewarding career. According to a 2018 Federal report, only 10% of the aged care and healthcare workforce in Australia are male. With nothing inherently “female” or gendered about the necessary skills and qualifications needed to be a Support Worker, it begs the question, why?
Flexi Support Director, Peter Chen, who’s worked in aged and health care since 2013, says there’s a misconception that male Support Workers are not in-demand. “It’s sad to say, but some recruiters still have outdated gender expectations of ‘who’ can provide professional care.
“The reality is, there is demand from clients for male Support Workers, and there are guys who are qualified and passionate about disability and support work.”
Real life demand for male Support Workers
While gender doesn’t determine who is a better Support Worker, there are reasonable instances where male Support Workers are requested by clients.
“We all enjoy spending time with people we can relate to. For this reason, some male clients find it easier to relate to and prefer working with a male support worker,” Peter explains. “Often we see younger clients responding well to male support workers because they foster a positive “big brother” role model.”
Peter also lists cultural, generational and behavioural reasons as to why clients at times ask for male support workers. “It’s not to say people of other genders can’t fulfil these requests, but rather, it’s understanding that clients’ preferences are deeply individual and personal.
“Clearly it shows a real need for diverse Support Workers, which can be fulfilled by care providers through inclusive hiring practices.”
Support work is rewarding work
Daniel*, a dedicated Support Worker with Flexi Support since 2018, says we need to be reminded that providing care for others, no matter what your gender or background, is uplifting and enriching work.
“I find it rewarding that I am actually helping people. In my role, I’m able to support my clients to achieve their goals.”
For instance, Daniel describes working with a client who struggled to leave the house. “The client faced a number of challenges in his daily life, but with continuous support and encouragement he built his confidence to be out in the community. It was a most rewarding moment for me.”
Moreover, Daniel admits that people who enjoy being around others will better suit Support Work. “I am a very social person and I like to connect with people. This job lets me interact with people from diverse backgrounds and my interpersonal skills have definitely developed. I have learned a lot from this job.”
As a career, Daniel says the biggest advantages of Support Work is flexibility and variety. “Flexible work hours definitely helped with my work-life-study balance.”
“Also, I like the variety of tasks that we do to support clients. Many people I talk to are surprised to learn that personal hygiene care is not the only task that a Support Worker provides.”
Daniel explains: “Often, clients would like to socialise and attend activities in the community, and a regular part of my job is taking clients out for excursions and exercise. I like the idea of the care we provide is tailored to the clients depending on their individual needs.”
What’s it like to be a male Support Worker?
To show what a day on the job is like as a Support Worker, Daniel kindly answered our Q&A. Read his words below:
Q. How did you start as a Support Worker?
One of my family members has been a Support Worker with Flexi Support for several years. They’ve had a positive experience and encouraged me to also apply for a role at Flexi Support. I followed their recommendation and applied once I finished my Nursing course and clinical placement. Needless to say, I got the job!
Q What’s a typical work day like?
The care we provide really depends on the individual client, so my tasks for the day vary. For example, I have assisted elderly clients with their ADLs (activities of daily living), accompanied clients that require constant care so their family members can have a break. I have taken many clients out for excursions, indoor/outdoor exercises and shopping. I have worked with many kids and shaped a “big brother” figure (a term used by one of my client’s parent) in their life. I’ve seen this be beneficial for their childhood and early adulthood.
Q What do you like about working with Flexi Support?
Flexi Support has a really supportive 24-hour team. This makes a real difference because there is always someone available to address our concerns.
Also, Flexi Support are great with further training. They conduct paid training sessions throughout the year and reimbursements of job-relevant costs. For example, I was reimbursed for a first-aid course I completed.
Q In your opinion, what will attract more male workers to carer/support careers?
I think the perception of Support Work must change. People need to be convinced that this is not a “female” industry. There are advantages to being a Support Worker, and as I mentioned, it’s the flexibility that works really well for me.
Q What advice would you give to other Support Workers starting out?
Be organised! Due to the flexible and varied nature of Support Work, your shift times, clients and tasks can vary each day. So learn to manage your schedule and keep your calendar organised.
Another tip is to speak up. Don’t hesitate to ask questions whenever you’re unsure and make it routine to provide feedback and observations from your shifts. This ensures you uphold professional boundaries and follow company policy and procedures.
As Daniel’s experience shows, Support Work, no matter your gender, is a rewarding and fulfilling career. If you, or someone you know would like to progress a career at Flexi Support, contact us.
Flexi Support Director
Peter Chen is our bona fide Director at Flexi Support and has been at the helm since 2013. He believes that health services should help to make people’s lives better. In this way, he values no-nonsense honesty and empowers others to find solutions to their needs effectively. Peter brings a welcome approach: to make home and community care easier for anyone to understand and access.
Daniel is an enthusiastic and experienced Support Worker with the Flexi Support team. With a background in Nursing, he expects and delivers high standards of care. His goal as a Support Worker is to respect and treat every client with kindness and patience.