Published August 2022
In an Australian first, the term ‘work from home’ was the top search term on SEEK in the June quarter this year (2022), superseding even specific job titles or locations.
Our team was gobsmacked to read this, so this update will provide employers an insight into the forces that play in today’s low unemployment environment coming out of Covid, and how to handle this new trend within the workplace.
For those who are looking to jump ahead and find out more about how to transition your employees from working to home, you can read our Quick Guide here.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED?
Remote work and workplace flexibility have become essential for Australia’s workforce and is still a lingering preference, even after the elimination of government mandates which made out-of-office working practices a necessity for many over the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to additional data provided by SEEK, 61% of workers who already have a job would resign if remote work allowances were revoked. With unemployment currently at just 3.5%, remote working capabilities remain essential for many employers looking to attract and retain talent.
Among professions, remote work practices were particularly favoured by IT and software professionals, women, and millennials.
The appetite among these working groups could reflect benefits of working from home systems over centralised systems including:
- The ability to work asynchronously;
- Reduced commute time;
- The work-life balance remote work can afford caregivers; and
- A desire for flexibility, respectively.
EMPLOYERS LIMBO & WHERE TO NOW
COVID-19 cases have been on the rise as of late across the country, but businesses are operating without most of the density limits or mask mandates imposed in earlier stages of the pandemic.
Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has stopped short of calling for renewed restrictions, declaring it is on employers to decide if staff and customers should mask up or work from home.
Chief Medical Officer Professor, Paul Kelly, mentioned that employers should minimise the risks in the workplace by considering the feasibility of some employees working from home, wearing masks in the workplace where you cannot be distanced and supporting employees to take leave when sick.
This has forced many businesses to rethink their working arrangements with equal challenges to benefits, with adjusting employees from work to home. Whilst for some businesses, having their employees work from home has been a great success, other businesses are still finding their feet in making remote work effective for their business.
Thanks to COVID-19, workplace flexibility and working from home is here to stay (in one form or another)! The reality is that employees are expecting some form of flexibility and businesses who are not offering, flexibility, could lose employees and struggle attracting new talent.
Flexibility is not one-size fits-all and means different things to different people. Flexible arrangements could be formal or informal, depending on their nature and duration – some examples are provided below:
- Finishing early or starting later on agreed days;
- Working from home 1-2 days per week and from the office/workplace on other days (‘hybrid’ arrangement’);
- Breaking up work hours so the first part of the day is performed during business hours, and the latter is at home, after hours (often after school/children in bed);
- Allowing employees to design their own preferred rosters.
It’s important to remember that flexibility, including the ability to work from home, is a two-way street and should meet the needs of both the business and the team.
It is important to have discussions with individual employees that are expecting some form of flexibility or to work from home, and to come to an arrangement (where possible) that works for the employee and the business.
While working from home is not generally an ‘entitlement’ (contrary to popular belief!), it is important for employers to delicately balance workplace and operational needs, with employees’ expectations to ensure they can retain and attract employees.
To find out more about how to efficiently transition your employees from work to home, please read our Guide here.
Employers should also remember that there are specific circumstances in which an employee can request a flexible working arrangement. These include employees with at least 12 months service in the following circumstances:
- are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
- are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010);
- have a disability;
- are 55 or older;
- are experiencing family or domestic violence; or
- provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.
You can read more about flexible working arrangements and employer obligations on the Fair Work Ombudsman website here.
For more guidance about this update, or to find out how Edwards HR can support your business, contract our team today on 07 3568 0866.
Feel free to share this update with others in your network.