Is working from home really working?

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown financial advice practices’ traditional working habits a curveball, as we see a significant uptick in remote working for employees – and the same is happening around the globe.

We’ve seen massive uptake of technologies that facilitate working from home with video conferencing software, like Zoom. Just to illustrate, Zoom’s share price has almost tripled in one year from $US95.51 in July 2019 to $US253.91 in July 2020.

According to ABS research on the household impacts of COVID-19, almost two in five (39 per cent) Australian workers worked from home in the four weeks prior to May 2020, during the fallout of the first wave of COVID-19 outbreaks around Australia.

This was higher than pre-COVID-19 rates of employees working from home (32 per cent) reported in 2019 by ABS. The higher infection numbers in New South Wales and Victoria meant that they recorded higher proportions than the national average of those working from home in the four weeks prior to May 2020, at 45 per cent and 43 per cent, respectively.


So far so good

Working from home brings with it a lot of challenges, including the distractions of family, kids and pets. Certain industries are more suited to remote working than others, but generally, the large majority of Australians are working productively from home. Research from Citrix has revealed that 70 per cent of Australians say their productivity levels are the same or higher when they work from home and 81 per cent say that they work the same or more hours at home.

Other benefits include cutting down on commuting time, having a flexible schedule, and a better work-life balance for some.


It’s not all rosy at working from home

There are risks and downsides to remote working, and it’s certainly not for everyone. Isolation and mental health risks are a real possibility, and can be brought on by time spent away from the office and being cut off from day-to-day interactions with co-workers. This is compounded by the current pandemic, which is forcing some to stay at home, or at the very least, alter their usual behaviours for social and public gatherings.

Interactions with other people in general have changed in many aspects of life and work, whether it be eating out at a restaurant, or holding client meetings. CoreData’s COVID-19 Pulse Check has found that more than half (54 per cent) of Australians say their mental health has been affected by COVID-19.



Tech focused companies are leading the way

The impact of the move to remote working depends on the industry in question, but we are seeing a rapid transition to working from home by many large technology companies around the world. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Uber have all publicly stated they will allow employees to work from home through to mid-2021. Atlassian, headquartered in Sydney, has told its global workforce they can work remotely indefinitely if they wish. And Twitter is allowing the same for its workers.

It will be interesting to see the flow-on effect to other industries, including the financial advice industry. Tech companies have had a head start and do not face some of the unique challenges confronting financial practices in delivering highly personalised services to clients through remote working.

According to ABS, a quarter of Australians (25 per cent) believe that working from home will continue into the future. CoreData’s COVID-19 pulse check has revealed that two in five (43 per cent) business decision makers anticipate that they will have more staff on flexible working arrangements over the next 12 months.

We will probably not see every company follow Atlassian’s lead, but we have seen that remote working can work, and its impact will change the way Australians work in the future.

Source: Anthony Zhang