4 in 5 Australian businesses say that remote work is here to stay long term, even as offices reopen nationwide

  • A full 80% of Australian companies which permit employees to work remotely expect the trend to continue through the long-term.
  • New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests working remotely will linger after COVID-19 industry shutdowns made it a necessity.
  • 45% of firms which permit some level of remote working have reported an uptick in staff wellbeing.
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Three in ten Australian businesses currently allow staff to work remotely, and the clear majority of those firms expect the trend to continue in the long-term, according to new workforce data.

Fresh figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), released Friday, outline how companies are adapting to life after the pandemic shutdowns of 2020, and how many plan to turn a necessary measure into an established business practice.

One in five firms already permitted some form of teleworking before the COVID-19 crisis shuttered offices nationwide, the ABS said.

That figure peaked at four in ten in September last year, and has tapered off as government restrictions and occupancy limits allowed businesses to return to their pre-pandemic routines.

But not every company believes the old ways were best.

80% of firms which currently permit a portion of their workforce to clock in at home, at the cafe, or anywhere with a working internet connection believe the practice will carry on.

The figures come at a pivotal moment for remote working, which exploded in prominence in 2020.

Australia’s commercial real estate industry is pushing for a return to the physical workplace, saying it boosts workplace culture and stimulates nearby business.

Even the CEOs of Slack, Atlassian, and Zoom — three tech companies which powered the initial work-from-home transition — cede there are a host of unknowns associated with remote work: What will happen to company camaraderie? And will extended periods away from the peering eyes of colleagues encourage workers to work extreme hours, or hardly work at all?

The ABS data goes some way to assuage those lingering concerns of burnout and workplace affinity.

A strong 45% of companies which permitted remote work reported an uptick in staff wellbeing, while a quarter said productivity had increased since the measures were introduced.

The findings do not spell out a total abandonment of the traditional workplace, and there is a clear bias in those figures towards industries which don’t strictly require on-site work.

In the Information and Telecommunications field, 10% of respondents said work-from-home arrangements would increase, and the Administration and Support Services sector followed a fraction behind.

But industries which may seem unsuitable for remote work have also latched onto the practice, suggesting the benefits have been acknowledged economy-wide: an impressive 19% of all mining firms which currently permit remote work expect it to continue, albeit at a reduced capacity.

For those who evangelise about the benefits of hybrid working arrangements, the figures will come as vindication. They show suggest remote work isn’t perfect for every circumstance, but neither is a workday confined to a central office.