14 November 2013

National Telework Week, 18–22 November 2013, is calling on Australian employers commencing 2014 workforce planning to consider telework as a viable and effective workforce planning strategy to increase productivity and reduce costs.

While businesses have been sceptical towards teleworkers, a recent report from the 2013 Trans-Tasman Telework Survey commissioned by Cisco Systems revealed teleworkers are up to 12 per cent more productive than traditional office workers. Additionally, a study by Randstad revealed one-quarter of Australian businesses view workforce performance and productivity as the number one human capital challenge.

A number of large organisations are already benefiting from instigating telework policies, including the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where a work-from-home pilot found a 27 per cent performance increase.

Abul Rizvi, Deputy Secretary, Department of Communications, says employers need to recognise the benefits of telework in the search for a more flexible, productive and cost-effective workforce.

'Employees who can use technology to work from anywhere will become more important for businesses and government agencies.

'Employers should begin planning for a more flexible workforce and identify the opportunities teleworking can have for their bottom line. If they're willing to adopt effective teleworking policies now, they will be able to reap the benefits.'

Employers can also benefit from increased staff retention, as almost three quarters (71 per cent) of employees say teleworking has a positive impact on their job attitude. A recent Deloitte Access Economics report, commissioned by Google Australia, also found employers with flexible IT policies such as telework, could save as much as 39 per cent of their staff attrition costs.

In addition, employers can recruit staff with desirable skills and experience independent of where they live, and reduce the costs of office accommodation.

Importantly, telework also provides opportunities for those presently disadvantaged in the labour market.

'Teleworking can open up doors for people to return to the workforce who have the necessary skills but are unable to commit to what have been up to now traditional patterns of work,' Mr Rizvi says.

Deloitte research on demand for telework has found that:

  • 74 per cent of people with carer responsibilities not in the workforce would take up telework if it was available to them
  • 66 per cent of people with a disability not in the workforce would take up telework if it was available to them
  • 70 per cent of people in rural and regional Australia not in the workforce would take up telework if it was available to them
  • 60 per cent of mature aged workers would delay retirement by 6.6 years if they could telework.

Based on these results, telework could add the equivalent of 25,000 full-time jobs, with 10,000 of these jobs in regional Australia, helping to grow annual GDP by $3.2 billion by 2020–21.

In previous years, remote teleworkers have been hindered by slower and unreliable internet speeds but teleworkers can increasingly take advantage of high speed broadband to enable high quality video conferencing, virtual collaboration tools and a greater capacity for transferring large documents and files.