CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 PANDEMICRESEARCH

Aussies overwhelmingly embracing workplace flexibility

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A YEAR into the move to work from home, remote working has increased productivity and played a significant role in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and the changing in working environment has been overwhelmingly positive for most Australians, according to the NAB.

According to NAB’s Health Wellbeing Insight Report on working from home, which is based on 2,000 survey responses, despite concerns of loneliness, loss of social interactions with co-workers and a potential shift away from a work-life balance, many workers would choose to work more from home.

However, factors including gender, income and location could stand in the way of this becoming a viable option.

With 40% of Australians working more from home than before COVID, men are working from home more than women, with a respective 36% vs 22% more time.

Men are spending 2.4 days of their total work time at home, while women are only spending 1.6 days, though both are working a similar amount of time at their workplaces, with men spending 3.5 days and women 3.4 days. This is due to women being more likely to be working part-time and fewer hours.

While 38% of Australians earning more than $100,000 a year are spending more time working at home, compared to 6% of those earning less than $35,000.

Workers are now spending around 1/3 of their working week at home, with the remaining now spent at their workplaces.

Victorians are spending the most time working from home, at 2.5 days, with NSW workers spending 2.2 days and NT only spending 0.6 days and WA workers spending 0.9 days.

Capital city workers are spending the most time working remotely, at 2.2 days or 40% of their total time at work, while nose in rural areas are spending 1.3 days or 25% working from home.

Those in the 18-29 and 30-49 age groups are spending more time working from home than those over the age of 50.

Those with children are working 41% of their week working from home, with those without children spending 34%.

Of total time working at home, part-time workers spend 39% of working time at home, compared to 36% for full-time workers. Professional and managerial workers also spend more time at home than labourers, with a respective 2.4 days and 1.0 days.

“These findings support research that has found remote work can be a source of socioeconomic inequality with a person’s salary a strong indicator of their likelihood of being able to work from home,” read the report, authored by Dean Pearson, Robert De Iure and Brien McDonald.

Those working in areas such as hospitality, fitness or manufacturing were unable to work from home, even during the peak of the pandemic and were as such more likely to become unemployed, either temporarily or permanently.

“These workers are also typically on lower incomes and may be disadvantaged by missing out on some of the positive wellbeing and lifestyle benefits reported by those who are now working more from home. This raises important issues for governments and businesses alike.”

On average, Australians would prefer to spend more time working from home in the future, ideally respondents would like to spend 2.4 days working from home, compared to the current average of 2.0 days.

All groups, excluding the self-employed, indicated the desire to spend more time at home. For the self-employed, who are currently spending 3.5 days at home, they would prefer to reduce this to 3.2 days.

46% of Australians believe working from home enables them to better their ability to get their work done, while 41% believe productivity has improved.

36% believe working from home has improved their connection to their families, with 34% believing happiness has been improved, 32% believe caring responsibilities are improved, 31% believe collaboration with colleagues and customers has been improved and 30% think weekly finances are improved.

5% reported an improvement in mental health or anxiety, however 35% reported working from home as having a negative impact.

Only 4% believe loneliness was improved, while one in three or 32% felt this aspect of life had been negatively affected, this was especially prevalent in women under 50 and men over 50.

Women in the 18-29 age group reported as being less able to extend their working networks at 17%, compared to 31% of men.  This was also seen in the ability to access career development at 26% of men and 13% women.

In the 30-49 age group, the ability to access career development was at 25% of men and only 1% of women. While in the 65+ group only 2% of women thought working from home had a positive impact on their ability to extend networks, compared to 26% of men.

The main three things workers missed most while working at home were informal chats and interactions at 22%, friendships with colleagues at 22% and human interactions at 20%.

10% of respondents said they missed nothing about their workplace.

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