A surprisingly large number of Australians are working from home, or elsewhere outside the office: some 5.6 million according to research conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Many are those whose work does not require them to be out and about: they have been granted the right by their employers.
The ACMA has produced a research snapshot on what it calls ‘digital workers’ in Australia: a group that it defines as including ‘teleworkers’ who are allowed to work away from the office for part or all of the day, and those using the Internet to work away from the office outside standard working hours.
The ACMA put the total of digital workers in Australia at 5.6 million. The bulk of these (4.6 million) work from home and about 1.6 million work while travelling, including while commuting.
Not surprisingly the views of ‘digital workers’ on the practice are overwhelmingly positive: more flexibility (55 percent); more productivity (30 percent); access to home comforts (28) percent and better work/life balance (23 percent). Fifty three percent saw no negatives but, again not surprisingly, reduced access to communications was identified as the biggest disadvantage, by 24 percent of respondents.
However with today’s technology many of the communications limitations associated with being away from the normal place of work can be overcome. Hosted IP telephony services, like those offered by M5 Networks, enable any phone - fixed, mobile or ‘softphone’ implemented on a desktop or laptop PC - to operate as an ‘internal’ office phone, be part of the internal numbering plan, display company numbers when outgoing calls are made, access company voice mail, etc. And that functionality can be transferred instantly from one device to another.
Of these digital workers the ACMA estimates some 40 percent use their own laptop, 28 percent an employer supplied laptop and 33 percent a mobile phone. Tablet usage stood at 21 percent and the most established technology, desktop PCs at 30 percent.
And the percentage of companies allowing staff to work from home one for at least one day per week is now significant: 55 percent of medium sized businesses (20-199 employees) and peaking at 67 percent for SMEs in the communications services sector. The wholesale trade and the property and business services sectors were next with 52 and 47 percent of businesses, respectively, allowing staff to work from home.
Moreover, in many cases the opportunity to work from home is not limited to a privileged few. The ACMA found that 26 percent of SMEs with digital workers had between 81 and 100 percent of their staff working away from the office at least one day a week.
A surprising percentage of digital workers - 22 percent according to ACMA estimates - are allowed to work away from their normal workplace for more than four days per week, while the percentage allowed one day per week was only 15 percent and those permitted less than one day per week away was 35 percent.
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