Australian SMBs lead world in number of online workers, as demand for office space declines

More Australian firms are hiring people online, and say they will continue to do so exponentially in the future, according to a new report which claims businesses value the flexibility and greater talent pool from online hiring.

The survey was commissioned by an online working technology platform, oDesk, and found 93% of the 306 Australian business respondents said they would spend the same amount of money, or more, on online workers. Two-thirds said they would spend over 50% more.

The oDesk report said Australians are now spending over 3.3 million hours working online through its platform, leading the world in online hiring per capita.

These results coincide with a drop in demand for Australian office space.

The Property Council of Australian Office market report released today found Australian office vacancies are now at 8.4%, up from 7.8% six months ago.

Ninety-two percent of the businesses surveyed said cost savings motivated them to hire online workers; while 71% said flexible staffing was important; 70% reported faster hiring as a leading reason.

The study found it takes approximately three days to find somebody to hire online.

Chief executive of oDesk, Gary Swart, told SmartCompany most of its clients are small businesses who are turning to online workers as a way to access more talent.

“Most of our clients are in fact SMEs and they are turning to us because they don’t have as many options as corporations might have. For SMEs it’s hard to compete with the big companies, so they turn to local agencies, but that’s still very competitive and quite expensive.”

Of the survey respondents, 96% believed the majority of businesses would have a blended team of onsite and online workers within ten years.

Swart says Australian businesses are hiring online from many sectors, but some are growing faster than others.

“Australian businesses are hiring for technical skills like web programming, mobile application development and web design, but they are also hiring non-tech sector skills too like marketing, graphic design, data entry and personal assistance.

“The fastest growing categories are game development, legal, HR and payroll and, customer service and support,” he says.

But Swart says we’re only hitting the “tip of the iceberg” of online hiring potential.

“Ecommerce is only at 6% penetration of the market globally, but we’re allowing people to work together without geographical limits. The internet is enabling businesses like ours to bring the work to the worker and people are happy about that,” he says.

Around 400,000 square metres of office space was up for grabs in the last six months, according to the Property Council report, well above the historical half year average of 280,000 square metres.

The report predicted an additional 633,000 square metres to become available in 2013 and this trend was expected to continue into 2014 and 2015 as more people work online and from home.



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