The Federal Government will stage National Telework Week in November in a bid to highlight the benefits of working from home, on the back of the National Broadband Network rollout.
National Telework Week, initiated by the government in partnership with a range of organisations, is designed to encourage employers and employees to trial teleworking.
“An increase in telework can lead to benefits across the economy… From big business through to individual workers,” Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said in a statement.
Initial partners include the Australian Human Resources Institute, Australian Industry Group, Australian Information Industry Association, the Australian Network for Disability, and Local Government Managers Australia.
Other partners include Cisco, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Unity4, Telstra, BlackBerry, Polycom, Infrastructure Australia, the Green Building Council of Australia, and the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council.
While these organisations are quick to sing the praises of working from home, there are drawbacks. StartupSmart highlights the pros and cons of working from home in 2012:
According to Senator Conroy, the benefits of telework include cost-savings and productivity gains, increased workforce flexibility, and expanded supply of skilled labour.
Other benefits include reduced impact on the environment, reduced stress from traffic congestion and increased time available to spend with family and the community.
“For our next generation of employers and workers, IT connectivity will need to be seamless to allow work from any location, be it at home, in the office or at their local café,” Conroy said.
“The rollout of the National Broadband Network is the game-changer that will make this an everyday reality.”
“The NBN will allow Australians to interact more easily from home, with their workplaces and with clients, through high-definition multi-party video conferencing.”
“They will be able to quickly transfer large files and use real-time collaborative business tools.”
Les Williamson, Cisco vice president for the Asia Pacific, says Cisco is already reaping the benefits of telework, including increased cost savings and higher levels of productivity.
“The ongoing rollout of high speed broadband will allow more employers and their employees to experience telework, regardless of their size or their business,” Williamson says.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to working from home is the issue of health and safety.
According to a recent report by Ergoworks, almost 765,000 Australians now work from home at least two days a week, putting added pressure on employers to ensure safe workplaces.
Ergoworks director Mark Douglas says employers are generally oblivious to the working conditions that employees have established in their own premises.
“It is not uncommon for home workers to work in unsafe environments, including working from kitchen bench tops,” Douglas says.
“The central issue is that home workers are not setting up their work stations safely. This deficiency is the responsibility of employers to address.”
“[If employers fail to address the issue, it] has significant potential to become a litigation nightmare.”
Meanwhile, Michael Fox, co-founder of online shoe retailer Shoes of Prey, believes it is harder to communicate with home-based employees, despite the use of online text and video chat.
“We see this in the communication challenges we have across our China and Sydney offices, with things changing so rapidly. Lots of people working from home compounds this,” Fox says.
According to Fox, it is also much harder to foster an office culture when staff work from home.
“Our office is open plan, we have regular drinks and we provide lunch to our team and eat together every day, which has helped to build a strong sense of team,” he says.
“This is all harder to achieve if we work from home.”