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Work-Life Index

#WeWorkAtHome

Introduction

More time, less stress, more freedom. Working at home is the new Australian dream. But, just like our parents and grandparents before us, so many Aussie workers continue to commute to work every day, before trekking back home to spend precious time with family, friends or ourselves. What’s holding us back from breaking the mould and embracing all that flexible work-life has to offer?

Technology is no longer a barrier for many Australians. The rollout of the nbn™ network is bringing the ability to have office-like internet speeds to homes in Australia and, increasingly, speedy broadband together with apps and tools, like video conferencing, cloud sharing, and group work platforms, means as a nation we’re more geared up for flexible working than ever before. So, what’s holding us back?

To find out, we asked Aussie employees and employers about their working at home experiences and opinions. Their feedback has been analysed in the report you’re about to read.

About the
index

Employees
1,209
People managers
601
Baby Boomers
1940s - 1960s
Generation X
1960s - 1970s
Millenials
1980s - 2000s
Industry size
Small
Medium
Large
Industry location
Metro
Regional
Industry category
Tech
Construction
Health
Parents vs non-parents
Parents
Non-parents

Technology

Of all Australian employers who stated it is feasible for their staff to perform their work at home based on the nature of their tasks, 67% consider video conference calls via Skype, Facetime and Google Hangouts effective in helping communication between workers in the office, business or store and those working at home – so what’s stopping more staff from using this technology?

Fast and reliable internet via the nbn™ network could hold the key to making these tools more accessible to more Australians.

49%

local storage of files on PC/laptop

40%

local storage of files on USB or portable drives

33%

cloud usage (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive)

33%

VPN client / remote server access

18%

video calling

When working from home, workers use SMS, MMS more

Video conferencing is considered an effective tool when working from home but only 18 percent are utilising it

Employees are using their own devices

The most interesting stuff

If there has ever been a time when employees can work at home as efficiently as they would in the office, it's now.

Executive summary

Case study

Co-owner of The Party People, Dean Salakas has been managing his team from his Rockdale home for the past 18 months. With a growing family and business, working from home lets him enjoy the best of both worlds.

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Parents
& Working
from home

Balancing the responsibilities of earning a living with raising a family is a tightrope walk for many Aussie parents. Working at home can offer parents the best of all worlds. Almost 2 in 3 parents (62%) who work at home say it helps them to better balance work and home life. And for 25%, the ability to work at home was part of the decision to return from maternity/paternity leave.

The biggest drawcard is having the flexibility to structure their day how they like (68%). Rather than being locked into 9 to 5, they can drop the kids off to school, work for a few hours, then spend quality time with them in the afternoon. All this while also contributing financially and advancing their careers.

32%

of parents surveyed said they took their current role because they could work at home

25%

thinks that the option to work at home was part of the decision to return from maternity/paternity leave

63%

of parents consider working from home a priority when looking for a new role

34%

of parents work flexible hours instead of the normal 9 to 5

62%

agree / strongly agree that working at home lets them achieve balance between work and home life.

68%

agree/strongly agree that WFH lets them structure their day how they like

Employee & Employers landscape

The employee landscape

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The employer landscape

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Future Impact Of
Working at Home

What will life be like if more Australians work at home? What will our cities look like? And our roads? The wider societal and environmental benefits for Australia could be significant. In fact, working from home may be to the 21st Century, what the private car was to the beginning of the 20th: a phenomenon that helps to transform the shape of our cities.

Vehicle kilometres from commuting are likely to decline, along with vehicle emissions. It will change the way we move around our cities, our shopping habits, family activities, how we set up our houses and even house prices. We’ve peered into the future to find out the potential impact of a rise in working from home.

Reshaping our cities

Reducing the need for driving

The impact on
house prices

Outer metropolitan
areas stand to gain

We have already seen the emergence of an atomised workplace, with people working from home, cafes, co-working spaces, often across multiple jobs and even working on public transport. The rise in working from home means a potential efficiency gain from the way our cities are spatially configured. More telecommuting means less need to live close, and commute, to employment hubs.

The most obvious impact of more Australians working from home is the potential for reducing commuting by car. Less need for driving not only has considerable benefits for the individual in terms of saving money and eliminating the stress of sitting in traffic; it also has potential flow-on benefits for the environment. The reduction in traffic results in less fuel consumption and fewer pollutants that would have been released into the air.

Using a statistical model to estimate the impact in metropolitan Melbourne, a decrease in commuting could result in 1.94 million fewer kilometres per day – that is something like 1,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions per week by 2021.

So, working from home not only saves employees time, money and stress, but it also clears the air for a better environment.

When searching for the perfect property location, homebuyers tend to start by factoring in the commuting time to work. So working from home will inevitably impact house prices. But to what extent?

House prices are generally higher and have grown more rapidly closer to the central city area. This is the case for most Australian cities and is a simple reflection of the desirability of living closer to facilities, services and jobs.


As a rule of thumb, for every kilometre closer to major employment hubs, there is a $40,000 premium on house prices across metropolitan Melbourne. This is a measure of locational disadvantage: the further you are from jobs, the further you are likely to be from a range of necessary services.

Working from home, however, can reduce the need to commute into work and live close to employment hubs in the central city. It simply becomes less important. Therefore, it should reduce the house price differential between inner and outer metropolitan suburbs. It may even increase the demand for regional living, as working from home becomes a full-time option for some people.

When we model the effects of increased working from home on house prices, we see an increase in the relative prices in outer metropolitan areas. This is because of a decline in the price premium for inner metropolitan housing.

In fact, in Melbourne’s case, the spatial distribution of this change is closely aligned with Melbourne’s growth areas. Today, these are relatively affordable areas because of their inconvenience with respect to work. As that inconvenience declines, the benefits of larger lots becomes even more attractive, and prices rise relative to the inner city.

It is also possible that, with the NBN and perhaps more investment in regional rail, regional house prices may also increase relative to metropolitan areas. The upshot is that more Australians working from home, more often, could help reduce inequity in our cities and towns.

Executive Summary

If there has ever been a time when employees can work at home as efficiently as they would in the office, it's now.

Now, more than 85% of Australian households are online and the NBN network footprint is set to double over the next 12 months, connecting half the country to superfast broadband. From video conferencing, project management apps and document sharing, there is more technology than ever enabling us to collaborate and communicate over the internet.

But not everyone is taking advantage of the technology on offer. Despite concerns about collaboration (29%) and staying connected with people (25%) while working from home, Aussie employees aren’t using the tools designed for this exact purpose. Only 12% of employees use video conferencing regularly when working from home. Instead, they are mostly relying on email (57%), voice calls (41%) and SMS (33%).

The gap between opportunity and adoption. Aussie employees aren’t working from home as much as they could be. Nearly twice as many employers (48%) say it’s feasible for their staff to work at home, compared to the number of employees actually taking it up (25%).

But it’s no secret that Aussie employees want to work at home more often than they do: as many as 9 in 10 who can work at home want to regularly. In fact, 30% want to skip the office completely and work at home every day.

And who can blame them? The majority of those who work at home are motivated by the perks working from home offers, such as cutting the commute (67%), having freedom around work hours (65%) and improving work-life balance (61%). It’s no surprise, then, that almost 6 in 10 of these employees work around other commitments, like school runs and laundry, while at home, rather then sticking to the 9 to 5.

Aussie employers also recognise the benefits. Around 2 in 3 who allow staff to work at home do so to promote better work-life balance. And a better work-life balance means happier, more productive, more loyal workers – the research shows employees generally feel more positive working from home than in the office and 56% say they are more productive.

The list of business benefits continues. More than two-thirds of employers who enable working from home say they have lowered staff turnover and almost 8 in 10 agree that having a flexible working policy helps engage a larger pool of applicants – which is not surprising when more than half of Australian workers say they look for flexible working options as a priority in a new role. Added to that are the cost benefits: more than 2 in 3 have lowered overheads by letting staff work at home.

So what’s holding us back from working from home more? Of all the barriers, ‘perception paranoia’ is the biggest. Of those employees who could but seldom or never work at home, 45% worry what their colleagues think, what their managers think, and whether they will miss out on opportunities when they’re not visible. Meanwhile, more than half of employers worry about communicating effectively with staff working from home.

The technology exists to overcome these fears, but it’s clear that neither employees nor employers are using it to gain the full benefits of working from home. While email, phone calls and SMS are used as often at home as in the office, the adoption of web-based technologies still has a long way to go. Only 12% of Aussie workers use video conferencing when working from home, and even fewer take advantage of audio conferencing and messaging programs.

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