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The NBN will make it possible for more employees to work anywhere - could that be good for your business? Dr Yvette Blount, Research Coordinator of Macquarie University’s Anywhere Working Research Network, discusses the benefits and obstacles you might want to consider.
Technology has made it possible for many people to work outside a conventional office and the National Broadband Network (NBN) will create even more opportunities. It’s a good time to consider whether your business could benefit from a more flexible approach to the workplace.
“Work is what you do, not where you are, and there are many different ways to manage the time you spend working,” says Dr Yvette Blount,Research Coordinator of the Anywhere Working Research Network at Macquarie University.
“For example, you could work at home and go into the office for varying periods of time when you need to collaborate, communicate and work as part of a team or you could spend a regular two or three days at the office each week. Alternatively, if the business has other branches or offices, you might be able to save commuting time by working at a location closer to home. And these days, a growing number of people think nothing of working in places like airport lounges, cafés, co-working spaces and client’s offices. That’s why we prefer to talk about ‘anywhere working’ rather than ‘working from home’.”
The most obvious benefit for an employer is the opportunity to reduce high real estate costs with smaller premises. You could also tap into the skills of workers outside your geographical area or who’d find it difficult to travel to work every day, such as parents of young children or people with disabilities.
“Research tells us that people with flexible working arrangements tend to see this as a privilege rather than a right, which can have a positive impact on retention,” says Blount. “In general, they also tend to be more productive and work longer hours – for example, they might start at 7am when they’d normally be commuting or continue after five when they might be rushing off to catch a train.”
Last year,Australia’s first National Telework Week raised awareness of NBN-enabled telework, though we’ve been slower on the uptake than some other countries. Census 2011 data confirmed that just 4.4 percent of Australians worked in their main job from home for most of the previous week compared with 25 percent of employees in India and 18 percent in China.
“I think some employers overlook the potential benefits because they’re thinking in terms of ‘working at home’ or ‘working in the office’ being mutually exclusive alternatives,” says Blount. “In fact, ‘anywhere working’ encompasses a wide range of possibilities.”
That doesn’t make ‘anywhere working’ right for everyone. Blount has identified five major points to consider before taking the plunge.
Find out more and see teleworking in action at telework.gov.au
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