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Biggest change to work in 50 years

Alexandra Vanags
27 September 2021 1 minute readShare
Biggest change to work for 50 years

The pandemic-induced shift to working from home is one of the biggest changes to the way we work in the last 50 years, and we must now plan the “next wave of experimentation”, according to a recent report from the Productivity Commission.

The report investigates how the move to working from home may impact Australia’s economy generally and people’s income, employment opportunities, and health and wellbeing.

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

“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.”

Mr Brennan said risks can be managed, but we should keep an eye on them and intervene if necessary. These risks include blurring the lines between home and work, which can negatively affect wellbeing, and workplace health and safety.

The report also called the pandemic a “forced experiment” in working from home, and said the next wave will involve employers and employees implementing 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,” Mr Brennan said.

The report expects workers and firms to negotiate mutually agreeable outcomes, with many likely to experiment with the hybrid model, where workers spend two to three days a week in the office and two to three days working from home.

However, while the report says the hybrid model is “intuitively appealing” in terms of balancing the benefits of both working in the office and at home, it might be “more difficult to execute well, due to increased management and co-ordination costs”.

The great resignation

This talk of the future of working from home comes at the same time as commentators here and overseas talk about the “great resignation” that is anticipated as large parts of the global workforce consider quitting their job in favour of employment that better fits with their desired lifestyle.

According to an article in the ABC on Friday, this is being driven by people’s desire to be seen by their employers not just as a worker, but a human being with a full life.

Biggest change to work in 50 years
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Alexandra Vanags

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