Jobhunters in years gone by may have used search terms like “baker”, “accountant”, or “dentist” while chasing a new position online.
Now, the top keyword on employment portal SEEK is “work from home”, highlighting how essential remote work allowances have become for Australia’s workforce.
In a new batch of employment trends data, revealed Thursday, SEEK ANZ managing director Kendra Banks and senior economist Matt Cowgill outlined the forces at play in today’s low unemployment environment.
Among them is the lingering preference for remote work, even after the elimination of government mandates which made out-of-office working practices a necessity for many over the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Get daily business news.
The latest stories, funding information, and expert advice. Free to sign up.
According to SEEK, “work from home” was the top search term used on its platform in the June 2022 quarter, superseding even specific job titles or locations.
Additional data suggests that among workers who already have a job, 61% would resign if remote work allowances were revoked.
With unemployment at just 3.5%, the data suggests remote working capabilities remain essential for many employers looking to attract talent in mid-2022.
Among professions, remote work practices were particularly favoured by IT and software professionals, women and millennials.
The appetite among those working groups could reflect three benefits work from home systems may have over centralised working practices: the ability to work asynchronously, the work-life balance remote work can afford caregivers, and a desire for flexibility, respectively.
If employers want to fill their positions, it would help to make their remote working practices clear up-front, Banks said.
Employers in limbo over mask mandates and pandemic restrictions
SEEK’s data arrives at an inflection point for the Australian economy. COVID-19 cases are surging across the country, but businesses are operating without most of the density limits or mask mandates imposed in earlier stages of the pandemic.
Although deaths and hospitalisations due to COVID-19 are approaching the levels recorded during the January 2022 surge, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has stopped short of calling for renewed restrictions, declaring it is on employers to decide if staff and customers should mask up.
At the same time, Albanese himself has begun wearing masks at media events, and has reportedly asked politicians to wear masks if they cannot socially distance when Parliament resumes next week.
The strong recommendation to mask up was aired on Tuesday by Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly, who said employers “should consider the feasibility of some employees working from home, wearing masks in the workplace and support employees to take leave when sick”.
The national union movement has also called on employers to minimise infection risks in the workplace.
“Australia’s entire healthcare system will be compromised unless COVID-19 cases are controlled by all employers stepping up and supporting the health and safety of their workers,” said Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil.
Further, management experts say businesses ought to keep remote work practices in the back pocket even when this stage of the pandemic comes to pass, as extreme weather events in the future could see businesses forced to revive their out-of-office strategies.
Cost of living pressures take sting out of so-called ‘Great Resignation’
Other data posed by SEEK suggests evidence for the ‘Great Resignation’ — the phenomenon in which disillusioned workers saw the pandemic as an opportunity to seek a new position — has all but petered out in mid-2022.
The proportion of surveyed workers who expect to leave their position in the next 12 months is firmly within its historic range, and the number of employees who have been in their position for fewer than three months is far below the peak caused by the first lockdown restrictions.
SEEK circled rising cost of living pressures as a potential contributor, as workers weigh their appetite for a new role against the certainty provided by the job they already have.
Wages remain a key determining factor in whether a worker chooses to move or not, SEEK added, although the number of job ads posted without salary ranges remains far higher than those which list expected wages.