Not nearly enough Australians are telecommuting: Telstra Work-Life Index

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Australian employees aren’t working at home as much as they could be, according to new research released by Telstra, which claims that nearly twice as many Australian employers (48%) say it’s feasible for their staff to work at home, compared to the number of employees actually taking it up (28%).

The research, conducted by Nielsen on behalf of Telstra, draws on responses from 1,200 employees and 600 employers to create Telstra’s first Work-Life Index, revealing perceptions around working from home and the opportunity for more people to do so.

Ironically, most respondents said they want to work at home more often than they do – as many as 9 in 10 employees who can work at home want to do it more regularly and 30 per cent want to work at home every day. Also, the ability to work at home is an equally high priority for Millennials (54%), Gen X (56%) and Baby Boomers (54%), and across genders.

However, there’s a wide disconnect between perception and reality when it comes to work-at-home options. Only 45% of workers surveyed believe their employer has formal flexible working policies in place, when in fact 83% of Australian employers stated they do.

Telstra’s executive director of global talent, Katherine Paroz, says with technology no longer a barrier for people to work at home, it’s time to find out exactly what’s holding them back.

“If there has ever been a time where employees can work at home as efficiently as they would in the office, it’s now. The rollout of the NBN is enabling fast connections for people from wherever they are, so people can work to their preferred style at home,” she said. “Our goal with Telstra’s Work-Life Index is to demystify the beliefs and attitudes holding people back from working at home and put the spotlight on why Australian society is better off as a result of flexible working.”

The index also reveals that the future of Australia could look very different if more people worked at home more often. Dr Kevin Johnson, managing director of demography at economics and spatial analysis consultancy Geografia, said the wider societal and environmental benefits for Australia could be significant.

“High speed broadband can facilitate telecommuting, and more telecommuting means less need to live close, and commute, to employment hubs,” says Johnson. “This has potentially vast flow-on effects to society as a whole; 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.”

Johnson modeled the potential future impacts on the shape of cities if an increase in working from home continues.

“Using a statistical model to estimate the impact in metropolitan Melbourne, the Index projects that a decrease in commuting could result in 92,000 fewer vehicles on the road than there could be, equating to 1.94 million fewer kilometers per day and a reduction of around 230 tons of CO2 emissions per day by 2021.

Meanwhile, he added, less demand for housing close to employment hubs could also reduce the house price differential between inner and outer metropolitan suburbs. It may even increase the demand for regional living, as working at home becomes a full-time option for some people.

“Together with the NBN and perhaps more investment in regional rail, regional house prices may also increase relative to metropolitan areas,” said Johnson.

Paroz of Telstra says the future of the Australian workplace is not sitting at a desk from nine to five, and that employers and employees are fully aware of the benefits of working at home.

“The biggest thing holding us back from living the flexi-work dream is our false perceptions and fears. Now is the time for employees and employers to start the conversation about working at home.”

Yu can see the full findings along with case studies, working at home tips for employers and employees, and more here.

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