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Working from Home

Commission research paper

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to large-scale and rapid changes in work practices, including a dramatic increase in the number of people working from home. The pandemic has demonstrated that many jobs can be effectively done from home, and it appears likely that the number of people working from home will remain much higher than it was previously.

The paper considers how decisions about location of work will be made as firms and workers continue to learn how to organise their work, and what an increase in working from home might mean for workplace regulation, urban centres and wellbeing more generally. This research paper was released on 16 September 2021.

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  • Video
  • Media release
  • Contents

Transcript of video

Hey, you are on mute.

You're on mute.

Has this happened to you?

Then you, like me, might be one of the 2 in 5 workers thrown into the forced experiment of working from home.

Beforehand, only a very small number of people were working from home, but COVID meant that it's rapidly become the new normal.

Even in lockdown with the joys of balancing work and childcare or remote learning, it was better than expected for many, including a lot of employers.

In fact, many people think they are as or more productive and happier when working from home.

For employers to continue to support this shift productivity will matter.

As people continue to learn and adapt, we're optimistic that productivity will not fall and it could improve across the economy.

Productivity matters, but so does wellbeing, and this is the main benefit for many employees, even if it doesn't fully show up in the economic stats.

Saving time on the commute means people have more time to do other things.

Like spending time with loved ones or on hobbies, and they have more flexibility to combine paid work with other day-to-day.

Many workplaces will find it hard to convince people to come back to the office all the time – if they want to keep their talent – because people are seeing the benefits and will look for the opportunities it provides elsewhere.

There are more benefits for employers than just a happier workforce.

Some are finding they can hire people anywhere if they work from home, not just where offices are located.

The most common work arrangements could be hybrid, where people work some days in the office and some days at home.

There will always be some jobs that don't lend themselves to working from home and some employers who don't support it.

So what should governments do about this new normal?

They should support the evolving transition and keep track of how things are going, but there's no need for a big policy response right now.

After all, this is still fairly new, and it's happened more quickly than people could have imagined.

It's one of the biggest changes to the way we work in the last 50 years and is still playing out.

Brought on by one of the biggest pandemics in 100 years.

Looks like some form of working from home is here to stay for many of us.

Are you interested in more?

Read our report at pc.gov.au

Forced experiment working from home

The shift to working from home caused by the pandemic is one of the biggest changes to the way we work in the last fifty years.

“In less than two years we have gone from less than 8 per cent of Australians working from home to 40 per cent. While this percentage may not always remain so high it is inevitable that more Australians will work from home,” Chair of the Productivity Commission Michael Brennan said.

A report released today by the Productivity Commission investigates how the move to working from home may impact Australia’s economy generally and individuals’ income, employment opportunities and health and wellbeing.

“On balance working from home can unlock significant gains in terms of flexibility and time for employees and could even increase the nation’s productivity.

“Risks can be managed but we should keep an eye on them and be ready to intervene if necessary,” Chair Michael Brennan said.

The report says all indications currently suggest we should not stand in the way of this evolution.

The pandemic created a ‘forced experiment’ where suddenly working from home has become much more common, accepted and expected by employees and employers.

The next wave of experimentation will see employees and employers choosing to implement work from home models that work for both parties.

“Working from home won’t suit everyone or every business but for many employees working from home arrangements will be a factor in deciding which job to take.

“Some employees have even indicated they would be prepared to take less pay in return for the ability to work from home,” Michael Brennan said.

The Commission’s report says that at this stage governments should support the work from home transition and don’t need to take any immediate direct action.

“There is a long history of technology enabling different ways of working. The forced experiment of COVID-19 has greatly accelerated take up of technology including that which assists working from home opportunities,” Michael Brennan said.

The report on Working from Home can be found at: www.pc.gov.au.

Media requests

Leonora Nicol, Media Director – 0417 665 443 / 02 6240 3239 / media@pc.gov.au

  • Preliminaries: Cover, Copyright and publication detail, Foreword and Contents
  • Executive summary
  • 1. Experimenting with working from home
    • 1.1 The untapped potential to work from home
    • 1.2 The pandemic forced firms to experiment with working from home
    • 1.3 The second wave of experimentation
  • 2. How will working from home evolve?
    • 2.1 What influences workers’ preferences to work from home?
    • 2.2 What do employers consider?
    • 2.3 Reconciling preferences: testing, negotiation, reallocation and learning
    • 2.4 The longer term
  • 3. The role of regulation in the transition to a work-from-home world
    • 3.1 Work health and safety
    • 3.2 The workplace relations framework
  • 4. How will increased working from home affect cities?
    • 4.1 Working from home will spread out economic activity
    • 4.2 How could working from home change where people live?
    • 4.3 What does this all mean for cities?
  • 5. How will working from home affect wellbeing?
    • 5.1 How does working from home affect wellbeing?
    • 5.2 Is working from home equitable?
    • 5.3 What does this all mean for wellbeing?
  • A. Conduct of this research
  • B. A simple model of working from home (forthcoming)
  • C. Additional maps
  • References

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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