8 December 2022

Love it or loathe it, working from home is now part of (your) furniture

| Chris Johnson
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Working from home

About 24 per cent of those working from home reported only positive impacts on their ability to do their jobs. Photo: File.

Flexible working arrangements are likely here to stay in some form, according to the trends analysed in the latest survey into Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA).

The number of Australians working from home obviously jumped massively during the height of the pandemic and COVID-induced lockdowns. That trend was most profoundly noticed in the ACT and in the areas of public administration nationally.

Between 2019 and 2020, the ACT saw a 10-fold jump in employees mainly working from home, with the trajectory continuing the following year.

Even the proportions of Victorians working from home due to the extended lockdown were matched by flexible working arrangements in the capital.

“While levels were high in Victoria, they were no higher than in the Australian Capital Territory,” the survey’s report points out.

“This likely reflects differences in both the composition of employment (with jobs amenable to working from home relatively more prevalent in the Australian Capital Territory) and the greater significance of governments (both Federal and local) as employers in the Australian Capital Territory.”

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The HILDA survey is a nationally representative longitudinal study of Australian households, following the lives of more than 17,000 Australians each year.

Survey participants are followed throughout their lifetimes, providing information on many aspects of life in Australia.

The survey is funded by the Department of Social Services and managed by the Melbourne Institute.

The 2022 survey has just been published and offers, among other things, valuable insights into the pros and cons of the nation’s most recent experience with flexible working arrangements.

“On the one hand, physical distance between co-workers may increase coordination costs, reduce knowledge exchange and harm the effectiveness of collaboration processes. It also makes it more difficult for employers to monitor workers, increasing the possibility of shirking behaviour,” it states.

“On the other hand, reduced time commuting simultaneously increases the scope for workers to spend more time in paid work, directly increasing output, and achieve better work/life balance, indirectly increasing productivity via being better rested.

“Working from home is also typically accompanied by workers having greater control over their time, which may be associated with higher levels of job satisfaction and greater opportunity for workers to arrange work in ways that best suits their own needs and preferences.”

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But while job satisfaction was high for employees working from home, about 42 per cent found some negative impacts on their ability to do their jobs.

About 24 per cent of those working from home reported only positive impacts on their ability to do their jobs.

More women than men reported feeling better due to working from home.

In-office workers are, however, more likely to be promoted.

While the Australian Public Services continues to grapple with flexible working arrangements – and a seemingly ad-hoc approach from agency to agency – the HILDA survey suggests that working from home across all sectors won’t be entirely reversed.

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Tom Worthington5:10 pm 13 Dec 22

I have been working from home, or wherever I happen to be, since I went out the door with a pocket computer and modem on my way around Europe in 1994. The idea of working in an office every day seems weird. I wrote a book about it: “Net Traveller” (available free online).

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