Evolving workplace, evolving risks

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Within a decade or so, another million Australians will telework from home, at least for part of the week, or operate as fly-in-fly-out workers, moving between interstate and offshore projects. But what is being done to prepare Australia for this impending trend and to reduce the risks it could pose to employers and employees alike?

Is Australia creating a more mobile workforce, or reducing labour mobility through out-dated state taxes and poor transport infrastructure planning? These are questions raised by former managing editor of the Business Review Weekly Tony Featherstone.

Featherstone says in his latest blog The Venture that Australian companies will begin to encourage teleworking to cut costs and boost productivity; and workers will embrace it for lifestyle reasons. “As super-fast internet becomes a reality, it will increasingly seem odd why so many people trudge back and forth to town each day for work, sometimes losing hours in the process and adding to city congestion and pollution, when the same work can be done from home in far less time,” he says.

But the lack of discussion around these topics means Australia might fail to keep up with the changing environment. The Government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper suggests that Australians will spend an increasing amount of time flying in and out of Asia, but Featherstone says progress on this front will be limited by Australia’s poor airports and airlines.

 “We need more debate on what the workforce will look like by 2025 and some genuine policy to help get us there. We’ll be there before you know it, and by then it will be too late if Australia continues to talk rather than act on these big workforce trends.”

 

  • Steve Riddle on 19/02/2013 5:24:46 PM

    Thanks for the article and continued great reference points for discussion. I am a strong advocate of teleworking in Australia and globally, in fact. Although the concept of teleworking in practice is not new, existing for a couple of decades, it is only most recently that reality has caught up with intent. The reality of technology improvements, teleworking benefits and awareness, infrastructure challenges, environmental consciousness and other related factors have contributed to an uptake in teleworking numbers and increased profile. When combined with Federal Government initiatives in the U.S. and Australia, this is really just the beginning. My concerns stem from a lack of leadership to drive the effectiveness gains from teleworking in practice and as a concept for others to follow and feel good about it as an option.

    My belief is significant enough to have spent many months developing a framework to assist leaders who manage remote teams and/or teleworkers (www.teleworkmanagement.com).

    It is a mistake to assume that leaders, many of whom are struggling with their roles anyway, will automatically or instinctively develop the skillset to lead remotely. With no political bias or agenda, both of my companies have become official business partners with the Federal Government initiative aligned to the NBN and DBCDE, accessed via telewrok.gov.au. It is through this type of engagement that teleworking has a chance to establish a foothold with meaning.

    Initiatives such as this, combined with related promotional activities will assist to create an appetite and enable teleworking in its early stages. However, as highlighted by Tony Featherstone, it is up to our Government and business leaders to ensure that teleworking lives up to the hype and gains that it has the potential for.

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