The first National Teleworking Week – an event which attempted to convert Australian companies into adopting flexible working habits- has come and gone. While some have labelled the initiative as flogging a dead horse is their dismissal a tad shortsighted?
Granted the concept of teleworking – or as its known ‘anywhere working’ - has been around for more than 20 years. But it has been given a new lease on life due to the corporate takeup of new technologies. The Gillard government predicts that the future of work in Australia entails more businesses adopting teleworking practices, and offering their employees more workplace freedom.
Over the course of this week, the teleworking movement’s supporters provided a number of compelling reasons as to why workplaces should adopt this trend. Here are five of them.
1. Ramping up national productivity
According to communications minister Stephen Conroy, Australian businesses that adopt teleworking practices are set to experience a 13 per cent increase in their productivity levels. If this effect was to ripple across multiple Australian businesses it could lead to a significant increase in the nation's overall productivity. In fact, a report from marketing firm, Colmar Brunton and Deloitte Access Economics forcasts that Austrlalia’s gross domestic product (GDP) will increase by around $3.2 billion by 2021 if the country moves to adopt teleworking.
2. Building a global economy
The trend also plays into the government’s plans to embrace the so called ‘Asian century’, as teleworking will enables Australian workers to aid Asia’s growth from a distance - working for Asian companies from Australian shores. Conroy labelled the move as a “win, win, win” for both the Asian region and Australia, The move will also bring us further into line with other developed economies; especially the US, where, according to a teleworking productivity report from University of Melbourne, more than 43 million workers are hybrid teleworkers; working between both their homes and from the office.
3. Employment and workplace opportunities
Teleworking is also set to break down barriers – like age, location, family commitments and disability – that are preventing some from entering the workplace. This could prove pivotal as Australia’s workforce adapts to an aging population and the post-NBN landscape.
Macquarie University business and economics lecturer, Dr Yvette Blount says the NBN will usher in a new age of teleworking.
“More opportunities and better broadband connectivity… that would really facilitate growth in this area,” Dr Blount said.
Broadband access in regional Australia could also create opportunities where those living out in the country may be able to work jobs in the city through teleworking.
4. Work-life balance
Teleworking may not be the panacea for optimum work-life balance but it will certainly provide budding parents the opportunity to work in-between the commitments of their children. It could also help workers who are forced to travel significant distances for their job, allowing workers to spend less time in transit and more time doing what they want to do.
5. Improving the environment
Mass adoption of teleworking will ease traffic congestion that occurs in major cities and will reduce emission. According to Conroy, the average person spends about two weeks per year traveling to by car to work. A move to teleworking could have a drastically ease pressure on our transport systems. But the benefits don’t end there. A report from Colmar Brunton and Deloitte Access Economics found that on average workers can benefit from a 23 per cent decrease in travel time and a 16 per cent saving on travel costs.
But will we make the switch?
So, there they are; five ways in which teleworking will benefit Australia. But do bear in mind that they are all just predictions. Turning their potential into reality will require a lot more than just well-intentioned banter.
Despite this, Blount is certain of one point around the mass adoption of the teleworking.
“It will make a difference to individuals, it will make a difference to organisations, and it will make a difference to society.”