Remote working in Australia – another fad or an overall trend?

Your highest performing salesperson has asked to work from home two days per week. What do you do?

  1. Scramble for corporate jargon justification as to why it’s not going to happen.
  2. Panic, sweat and worry that they’re disengaged and secretly looking for work elsewhere.
  3. Or, do you simply smile, nod, agree, and get said salesperson to sign your very modern, very robust ‘remote working’ company policy.

We recently reviewed the Australian workplace trends of 2019 and the past decade. From this review, we saw a host of changes in the workplace. These changes included:

  • the evolution and impact of AI and other technologies
  • flexible working practices
  • the rise of the gig economy
  • the impact of generational change on workforce management and productivity.

One of the emerging trends we recognised that’s had consistent uptake, is remote working. This is a trend that, with the right management practices and policy adoption, can be a pillar for instilling trust, high performance and engagement from your workforce.

Note, however, I said the phrase ‘right management practices’.

Let me explain.

Today, we’re taking a look at the trend of remote working in Australia, to determine if it’s here for the long-haul.

We have reviewed its adoption as it continues across Australia’s workplaces in most white-collar industries.

We have constructed this analysis by delving into the why of remote working in Australia, the how; the barriers to adoption; and the likelihood of remote working becoming a staple of life for Australian workers.

Firstly, the rules of engagement

All considerations of remote working must be addressed with the two affected groups in mind: the workers and the employer.

But more importantly, before we get into it, I think we need to make some worthy assumptions.

  1. The organisation isn’t undertaking remote working on an ad hoc basis: there is a well-considered strategy and an agreed approach
  2. The agreed approach to remote working may not be right for all categories of workers
  3. There’s minimal fluidity with the policy: the organisation and its workers agree on how the policy is executed

Now that we’ve got the ground rules set, let’s look at why remote working is an attractive and viable option for both identified groups.

In 2018, an Upwork study found that 63% of US companies have remote workers.

Why Work Remotely?

What’s in it for the workers?

There are a multitude of contributing factors that deem the concept of working remotely attractive for workers.

Here are just a few of them:

  • Say goodbye to the office commute: the time saved avoiding sitting in traffic or on the train or bus, presents itself to the worker as a gift. A gift to the said worker of – let’s look at an average – 2 hours per day in most capital cities. Zero downsides in consideration of this point alone
  • Empowerment: the feeling that the boss and the team trust the worker, believe and trust they can take responsibility for their time to effectively deliver on their performance indicators, is motivating and empowering
  • Focus time: having minimal distractions, chat and other ‘down’ time that invariably happens in an office, is eliminated (pending of course, on minimal distractions at home). It’s a great opportunity to deliver on work that requires quiet time, focus, concentration

remote working jobs Australia

What’s in it for the employer?

Managed with care and executed with rigour, the remote working policy can be a boon for productivity, corporate reputation and worker engagement.

Here’s why:

  • A boost to corporate reputation: this has multiple angles. Firstly, there’s the reduction in carbon emissions. The Carbon Trust in the UK determined that the reduction in carbon footprint for organisations who allow remote working would reduce emissions by 3 million tonnes per year (UK, 2014 data). As a result, the organisation’s brand reputation is enhanced in an era where people and business have a heightened consciousness to take action and reduce the negative impact on the environment
  • Another positive hit for corporate reputation is the impact on prospective (and current) workers (especially millennials). A business that moves with the times, is far more appealing for top talent, for both attraction and retention
  • Similar to the empowerment benefit for workers, the employer stands to win here too. Empowered, trusted employees are more engaged, are more productive and are willing to go the extra mile for their organisation
  • Potentially significant reduction in operating costs: a flexible working schedule can reduce office space and use of utilities. Renting smaller spaces and/or space in co-working environments can achieve substantial cost-savings

What Does Remote Working ‘Best Practice’ Look Like?

Like all factors related to this topic, the execution of best practice remote working relies on both the worker and the organisation.

We’ve identified five crucial factors that contribute to making remote working in Australia work. These are:

Have a clear hiring and onboarding strategy:

  • If you’re looking to make remote working central to your business operations, you need to hire self-motivated, accountable people
  • Ensure onboarding includes a clear understanding of expectations from the outset both of the role, and the remote working behaviours that lead to success for your organisation
  • Onboarding must cover task and job descriptions of all team members

Collaborate online and allocate project responsibilities:

  • Use collaborative technology platforms like Google Project Management, Asana, Slack or Trello
  • Ensure responsibilities are allocated and agreed upon by all stakeholders, including timeframes
  • These platforms minimise the need for endless emails, they keep people engaged in the project and ensure transparency for all deliverables

Ensure all parties practice professional meeting etiquette:

  • Sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s critical to adhere to these suggestions
  • Make sure video is enabled
  • Make sure everyone is on separate screens
  • Be present. Don’t be distracted by the phone, your email – anything
  • Use agendas and take notes

“Always use video in conference calls. People tune out when it’s an audio-only call.”
Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork

 Be a visible worker:

  • Be prompt when someone asks you questions
  • Let people know what you’re working on. People get caught up in their day-to-day stuff, so keep them in the loop, communicate regularly, and make sure you’re ‘present’ in their consciousness
  • Be visible and active in your collaboration technology
  • Regularly ask stakeholders if they’re getting what they need
  • Schedule regular (but not unnecessary) meetings
  • Celebrate team and individual wins

Get together in person, regularly:

  • Build trust, personal connections and team bonding from face-to-face interactions
  • Include social activities as part of the face-to-face time
  • Fosters stronger team spirit and connectedness
  • Assists with better remote collaboration

Barriers to Adoption of Remote Working

Remote working isn’t for every organisation or every worker. Likewise, it’s not for every team in those organisations that do adopt a strategy. This is particularly at the outset for established organisations, where adapting to a new way of working will have teething issues.

We’ve identified the major challenges to establishing remote working in your organisation – for both the worker and the business – and included ideas to help overcome them.

BARRIERSOLUTION
Distractions: a potential downside for every remote worker (see video below)
  • Turn off all non-essential devices for key periods throughout the day
  • Set specific blocks of time to achieve goals
Overworking: with work being a permanent fixture at home, it’s easy to overdo it on the hours
  • Use a time-tracking device to manage hours and deliverables (like Slack)
  • Prioritise activity
  • Set realistic goals for the day
Communication: it sometimes fails. You need to be prepared with contingencies to manage it.
  • Technology, again, is your friend here. Skype for Business, Slack and other collaboration and communications tools are invaluable
  • Undertake weekly meetings with the remote team
  • Ensure workers are driven by deadlines and deliverables, as relevant
  • Set times of the day where workers interact directly, as appropriate
Corporate bias: the ability to shift legacy thinking of long-standing business cultures becomes crucial
  • Action and success speak volumes. Demonstrate how it works in other organisations, and how it can work in yours, via a test sample
  • Work to culturally remove the stigma of ‘presenteeism’
  • Demonstrate the many organisational values of the policy, both culturally and commercially
Concern about tax and other statutory compliance issues
  • Get advice on the relevant labour laws in your state, and if you have employees working offshore, before establishing the policy
  • Thoroughly familiarise yourself with all aspects of legislation – from tax, employment, insurance and other laws

 

 

Is Remote Working in Australia Here to Stay?

We think so.

With a multitude of rapid changes continuing in today’s workforce, we see remote working in Australia as a definite staple in an organisation’s approach to workforce management, engagement and workplace policy.

How’s this for proof: in 2019, the International Workforce Group (IWG) surveyed 15,000 people across 80 countries. The findings included:

  • Remote working was now considered ‘normal’ for workers and organisations
  • Remote working was often a deal-breaker for workers: 83% of respondents said they’d reject a job offer by a company that didn’t offer remote working
  • 85% agree that productivity increased in their organisation as a result of the ability to work remotely
  • 65% of organisations said that flexible working spaces allow them to reduce CAPEX, and better manage risk

It’s just a matter of time before old policies are replaced by remote working adoption.

Is your organisation ready?

As one of the world’s top suppliers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is perfectly positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across 5 continents, and with decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help with your contingent workforce solutions please contact us here.

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