Survey: Remote Working Could Become Norm for Many Australians

April 22, 2020 Updated: April 22, 2020

As Australians adapt to the new reality of the CCP virus pandemic, more and more businesses and organisations are directing or encouraging their staff to work from home. While the shift started as a contingent response, a new survey suggests that remote working is likely to become norm for most Australian workers in a post-pandemic era. Yet, there are challenges to overcome for both employers and employees.

The new Workforce Confidence Index, the first of its kind released by professional networking platform LinkedIn, reveals changing sentiments to finances, workplaces, and job opportunities among Australian professionals in the pandemic context, induced by CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

The biweekly snapshot, based on a poll of 1,099 members across Australia during the period from April 1 to 7, shows that the Australian workplace is moving into a remote work era. Among those polled, 66 percent say they are provided with the opportunity to work from home, and a similar number, 63 percent are confident this will continue.

However, fewer than half of respondents believe they are being offered support for their emotional wellbeing, and, just 15 percent of those say they are taking advantage of the support on offer.

According to the survey, the transformation is taking place amidst an unfolding economic downturn, coupled with low confidence in job securities, and the reluctance to spend among professional workers.

Matt Tindale, managing director of LinkedIn Australia, urges employers to lend their staff more support “in a time of uncertainty with a lot of job displacement.”

“Everyone is going through this situation slightly differently, and so employers need to be empathetic to that and conscious of it,” he told the Epoch Times in an email.

A Trend in its Fledging Stage

Robin Price, a lecturer in employment relations and human resources at Central Queensland University, embraces the trend, saying remote working will continue for those who can make it.

She said the unexpected move prompted by the pandemic had taught employers that working from home is feasible and desirable. On top of cost-saving benefits, it has addressed a significant concern holding them back.

“From an employer’s perspective, you also realise that it is possible to monitor how much employees do and how they perform.” Employers had not done it previously because they didn’t trust their workforce to perform, she told Epoch Times.

For employees, remote working not only saves transport expenses, time, and stress, it also offers the flexibility valued by most.

However, it can be difficult for those with care responsibilities, no separate working space, or without decent internet. Staff health and safety, including emotional wellbeing, can also become significant issues.

Price said that employers are obliged to take proactive steps to ensure a safe work environment even at home for their staff.

“Employers retain the same legal responsibilities for their workers’ health and safety regardless of where their workers work, so they need to develop systems to ensure they are safe,” she said.

She added that doing so also serves the interest of employers since it will help “protect the employer from claims for work-related injuries.”

For employees, the challenges of working from home mostly relate to emotional wellness and financial compensation.

Price encourages remote workers to be more aware of maintaining motivation and social networks as it is essential to their sanity and career development. In the meantime, she advises: “[Make] sure you are paid for all the work you do and reimbursed for expenses.”

Industries Leading the Way

Looking forward, Price said governments need to do more to ensure a solid and speedy internet infrastructure nationwide, especially for regional areas.

On the business level, the way businesses deliver their services will be one of the key factors driving the transition. Industries that do not require face-to-face contact to serve their customers, and those that can use technology to serve their customers upon request, will be major beneficiaries of remote working.

Online retail, media, education, financial services, and administration services are cited as good examples.