Working from home is here to stay

A new survey from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reveals that most Australians wish to continue working from home (WFH) for at least a few days per week:

…instead of commuting every day, they would be happier to be in the office for only two or three days of a five-day working week…

For those who can work from home, between 41 and 60 per cent surveyed revealed a preference that sees them doing two or three days a week from home.

Respondents aged over 60 most favoured working remotely, pegging their preference at between 81 to 100 per cent of the time…

“We may end up having more small offices set up around the [large capital] cities … say, ‘collaboration hubs’, with less commuting time, that still meet those social and collaboration needs, while providing a distraction-free environment” [said Chris Mattey, a partner at Boston Consulting Group]…

The survey found that, on average, workers’ productivity and engagement with their job had gone up…

“The key thing coming out of this for me is around flexibility, around time,” he said.

“Not even about 80 per cent [working four days a week], but about time of the day, like so I can pick up the kids — which, by the way, I need to do in about half an hour — and flexibility around location”.

WFH could be the biggest positive outcome from COVID-19.

WFH eliminates the need for millions of workers to waste money, fuel and time commuting into central locations for work.

In turn, WFH frees up transport infrastructure, reducing the need to investment massive sums of money to expand capacity, as well as wasting money on office space.

WFH is arguably much better for the environment, given it reduces traffic, congestion and emissions on road networks. It could also encourage workers to eat at home rather than buying takeaway, thereby saving on food packaging. On the flipside, WFH could result in higher heating and air-conditioning use, negating (but not eliminating) environmental benefits.

WFH gives parents incidental interaction with their children that they otherwise would not have when they leave early and arrive home late to/from work. It also offers working mothers/fathers more flexibility, thereby expanding career opportunities.

Finally, WFH diversifies economic activity away from CBDs and, in the process, offers housing affordability benefits since it enables workers to live further away from work (including regional areas).

Given so many Australians now work behind internet-connected computers in ‘knowledge jobs’, there is less need to have workers travel to a central location every day on crowded roads, trains, busses and trams. This is both archaic and inefficient.

The only downside that I can see is that new entrants into the labour market, such as recent graduates, could lose out on face-to-face mentoring. However, these costs are far outweighed by the benefits of WFH.

Leith van Onselen

Comments

    • That’s Mexico City. Odd number plates drive one day, even the other. The rich have twice as many cars as they need and drive every day.

      • It’s confusing that you think that’s the same.

        I’m suggesting businesses that can work from home split their workforces in halves and rotate work from home/work from office weekly.

        Getting a second car wouldn’t do anything.

    • bskerr2MEMBER

      It’s more than that, I work in cyber, finally so many places are going remote and are ok with it, but remote doesn’t just mean working from home, it means I can be in a number of countries around the world, no longer restricted to a geographic boundary. For example, Thailand, and if you are over 20 you can get the elite 5/10 or 20 year visas (500k baht,800k,1 million baht) and not even live here, yep no more diversity multicultural or racism issues to put up with, well, a lot less anyhow. Poland you can register a company and as long as you earn 35k a year you can live in Poland, after 3-5 years apply for citizenship and other Eastern European countries offer similar biz plans.

      For many single working professionals that have had a guts full of the west and it’s god dam multicultural feminist diversity crap, you now have solid options to leave and lead better lives in other countries.

      • Rorke's DriftMEMBER

        Love the ramt. Wish I could do it. Still need some time in the office each week. Also, tech needs to just work, I’m so over constant changes, upgrades, downloads, client IT inefficiencies, its not yet good enough to support international roamers.

        • The true irony will be when every possible thing to offshore is offshored and the only people onshore are essentially remote-controlled hands.

  1. while working from home may be a good short term solution with existing trained staff it’s going to be big problem during next expansion phase

    just how new employees are going to be trained?

    • Reus's largeMEMBER

      I had to train a new employee over the last few months and it just takes a bit more effort and diligence so not at all impossible, besides most industries are not going to be adding staff for the next few years anyway.

    • Strange EconomicsMEMBER

      Same way Just As they graduated from an online university where they were trained.

    • The90kwbeastMEMBER

      I see this being a bit of an issue also. Yes you can technically be trained remotely, but good luck on developing relationships with anyone to get work done, you’re just the new guy/girl behind an email or teams call hassling people.

  2. Outta sight. Outta mind. Outta job. As someone said last week, good for workers in Mumbai and Bangalore. Human connections lost, wages suppressed, employers realise much work is dispensible, employees dread wfh tracking software, cities slowly die.

    A nightmare!

    • PaperRooDogMEMBER

      Actually it might not be so good for Mumbai etc. Wife was on a conference call WFH with the CEO of a very large national company & they were discussing how “covid” has shown they need to change and not outsource tasks, so will be bringing all the outsourced costing & accounting back in house to Australia, they talked about efficiency & internal customer satisfaction, team building & moral! For example, If someone wants data from a spreadsheet they ring/email India (if available) get charged $30 just for opening a spreadsheet/database query time taken etc. But they new say these “savings” have been at a cost to the team, core competencies, moral, speed. Lining story short, they will likely reshore & they have already signed off on working from home 3 days a week for moist officer staff.

      • The90kwbeastMEMBER

        Interesting. On the ground, I think most employees having to work with offshore teams know it impedes productivity and ruins culture, all for some theoretical cost savings that never end up quite being realised as the brand damage from stabbing customers in the eye with your cruddy, cheap outsourced processes mostly offsets the expense saving.

  3. I’ve been attending the office fulltime during this whole debacle, but I’ve got a sick kid and can’t go to work until his Covid test results comes through.

    I’ve got my computer and phone set up in the home office. I started at 7am with a US telephone call and have been doing exactly what I would’ve done in the office since then. Now eating leftovers and will then go for a walk just as I would at the office, except in a park and I won’t pass any sex shops.

    No commute, no reduction in productivity and chatting to my other son who is not sick in bed. Overall I feel noticeably calmer today.

    I don’t see any downside to this at all. Unfortunately I can’t see it continuing because the big boss, who largely works from home these days, doesn’t think that anybody else should be allowed to do it because he thinks people will slack off. Sigh.

    • PaperRooDogMEMBER

      No sex shops, Reusa not going to like WFH!

      Your boss needs to read the stats, WFH has shown people to be more productive, as stated above. Also wifes CEO gave “improved productivity” as THE reason he has signed off on workng from home for most office staff, he literally said “the board discussed it several times in recent years but we always concluded it would reduce productivity, but covid has proven the opposite to be true.” (maybe see my other comment above also)

      • Anecdotes will abound. Companies have barely addressed productivity issues re wfh/Covid and given many struggled to get a handle on this in the workpkace, more difficult remote. De jour at present to claim “bringing it home”, action speaks louder than words – I know of one large employer that will dispense of many workers any slack picked up offshore. This will be the trend. Even US based staff are looking cheap…and they need the work.

        • No offence intended there LSWCHP. Just some Radiohead lyrics that came to mind when reading about your WFH experience.

      • Ah OK. Thanks for the context. I’m more of a BB King and Muddy Waters kinda guy so definitely missed the allusion. 🙂

    • Question. If ALL of your colleagues just take pictures of their chairs at work and set it as their backgorund on video calls.. how will your boss even know if you were at work or just at home? Seeing as the big boss always wants to work from home anyway..

    • kannigetMEMBER

      I did 9 weeks straight WFH and While there are a lot of upsides you dont get the conversations going on around you that keep you involved in team dynamics. The Team was tasking was extremely dynamic and it was easy to get lost as you were not around when a conversation about it came up. It takes a lot more effort to keep abreast with all that is going on in the team.

      I finished that role and moved to a new one, back to WFH again but this time I have no teams to keep abreast of as yet.

      I enjoy working from home, do more hours and usually achieve more but the dynamics of the team really require more effort on the team leader as well and each individual than I was expecting.

      Overall I like the idea of WFH / WFO rotations, balances things out but I could WFH permanently if need be.

      • Your sentiments are similar to mine

        I found I need to make time to hit the phone and stay in touch with team/contacts. Doing that gave me the “hit’ I was looking for and missing by working from home

        If you can maintain some discipline, WFH (IMO) will deliver higher productivity – and therein lies the problem – employee discipline

        • kannigetMEMBER

          Overall Productivity went down when we started to do WFO, maybe the team was really good at that but it really depends on team dynamics. WFH can create a team of individuals, that is not productive overall.

          If your management has a mindset of creating teams so they can manage people instead is teams with similar skills so they can collaborate then there will be no value in WFH. I would argue the team isn’t that productive in the office either.

    • Your Boss is a luddite. We’ve been doing WFH for 19 years & its not hard. (But does depend on the business, certainly depends on the business & culture). We did it because it meant we gained access to mum’s who wanted to work but wanted flexible hours & flexible work place arrangements but got rejected by their previous employer. Too many old employers who trust nobody. Mostly they don’t slack off they do more hours.

  4. reusachtigeMEMBER

    I was chatting at the local lounge with some executives and they all agree that in the beginning everyone seemed to make an effort with working from home but many employees have now dropped the ball of enthusiasm and productivity has gone down the sh1tter. So they are all hatching plans to force people back to their desks regardless of social distancing etc. Employees need to be kept an eye on otherwise they will take advantage of you.

    • Agreed. There are always one or two that ruin it for everyone. If the State Govt continues to run public transport it must be safe to take it.

    • By “local lounge” you mean the VD climic. And “executives” you mean prostitutes.

  5. It works for some folks but not everyone. It will take very good management for this to be managed at scale and from my experience middle management in Aus is not up for it.

    If the job doesn’t need to be done at the office it doesn’t need to be done in Sydney / Melbourne. I think this leads to further offshoring or just reducing red tape at businesses where there are all these processes that have evolved over years which add no value (go work in the public service to see some of these).

    Less (Australian) workers required is the end outcome of increased WFH.

    • PaperRooDogMEMBER

      See my comment above, at least one major company is likely bringing work back onshore, thanks to covid. Though I must admit I thought the same as you prior to hearing this.

  6. migtronixMEMBER

    Nooooo I’m over this! Or I’m moving to travel. If I don’t have to be anywhere in space only time I’m fvcking out!

  7. The hilarious thing about this is that the big companies (or at least the captured HR sections) in particular have been banging on for years about the importance of diversity in a workplace and so implemented policies to encourage things like cross over of staff in common areas, office wide open plan etc.

    Now they will have none of that.

    • Diversity is not our strength. Everybody knows that, nobody can say it. I used to be wild champion of it, but nearly 40 years at various workplaces caused me to realise the truth eventually.

  8. Anyone see the article in the weekend AFR with Lang Walker? Bloke says it’s time everyone got back in the office. Important for productivity and stuff.

    No mention of the vested interest Mr Walker may have in people working in offices vs their homes.

  9. “face-to-face mentoring” hmmmmm… that’s the stuff in the HR glossy and job ad blurb right? Try the more near universal “This is my patch… you are a threat… I didn’t get any help so why should you… I don’t like change, you look like change”.

    The real loss of any mentoring would be statistically insignificant and work against the well connected and generally less meritorious. That is, no loss at all.

  10. SupernovaMEMBER

    Yes think WFH is here to stay for most earning income from using a computer……However, from experience there are many pitfalls esp. after about 6 months (most small start-up businesses fail by 6 months) that make WFH impossible for many people like noisy location, slow net speeds, various house distractions, inability to stay on a routine to coordinate with office, inappropriate work spaces such as kitchen bench, loss of direct person contact. People who succeed in long-term WFH have generally done some sort of preliminary start-up small business course which covers the pitfalls of WFH (remember most fail in first 6 months). An alternative might be to form some sort of WFH group that meets say once a week in your local area to share experiences that may help overcome the pitfalls.

  11. I work on phone (VOIP) based system helpline, from home for now, being forced back to office. I don’t have an office (started role just before COVID – was working 2yrs already in a different branch of organisation) so basically went straight home at start of COVID. Head office is other end of state and has decided everyone should be back in an office, so now they are renting space for me to go and sit in by myself and do what I have already successfully been doing from home. New office is 30 mins drive each way in peak, shared amenities are gross, location food desert light industrial warehouses and offices area in crap part of town. I love WFH- lunches with my dogs, vege patch, healthy cooked lunches, home when my wife and kid arrive, have told work this on number of occasions and asked not to go back. They can see my work output by the minute online, we already have in place 2 x Teams check in meetings (AM/PM) each day. I actually won a productivity award yesterday, asked to keep WFH again today, again, no dice. No reason given. The ‘must work on site’ boomer management mentality here is ridiculous. If a similar job elsewhere comes up that is WFH I would toss these clowns in a second.

    • I really can’t understand that sort of thinking. If they let you WFH you are happier in your job, more productive and save them money.

    • If you are allowed to work from home other less productive employees must be allowed to work from home.

      Plus the corporate fiefdom that relies on having physical real estate would be without a job.

      • Yep this part of it grinds my gears too- marching to the speed of the slowest dimwit in the organisation means I dont get to see my dogs all day.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      You working from home risks boomer management jobs. You prove they’re just not needed.

      You should be ashamed of your discrimination against your betters.

      • Jumping jack flash

        This.
        The rise of the workers once again, and not the managers taking credit for others’ hard work, skill and dedication?