NBN survey suggests flexible work is here to stay

The Hueston family of Copacabana has found a wealth of benefits through working from home

Working from home could become the new norm, even after the coronavirus threat is behind us, according to the NBN Australian Covid-19 Behavioural Change Survey.

More than 80% of respondents to the national survey said the experience of working from home had positively changed the way they think about managing work/life flexibility.

And 67% nationally said they expect to work from home more after the COVID-19 crisis has ended.

Business NSW Central Coast Regional Director, Paula Martin said the working from home landscape has “changed forever” thanks to technology which has enabled business to keep connected to their employees, customers and suppliers during COVID-19.

“Working from home during the pandemic has allowed business to continue to innovate, service their customers and operate their workforce in a healthy way,” Martin said.

“We have seen less commuting time, less stress and less distractions account for an increase in productivity.

“Nearly 40% of workers are working longer hours.

“Prior to Covid-19 less than 10% of businesses offered working from home arrangements and often informally.

“Now working from home not only helps business manage costs it can also strike a balance for maximum productivity using flexible and formal working arrangements.

“At a regional level the Central Coast Economic Taskforce is working on ways to help our 44,000 Central Coast commuters stay local and spend local for at least part of the time.

“We are looking at the right regional infrastructure including affordable connectivity, speed and reliability, and optional workspaces for locals to use as an option to the kitchen table.

“Two days at home seems to be the rule of thumb for a happy and productive workforce.

“Beyond that, business risks a tipping point where workers can feel isolated, out of touch and blur the lines between home and work activities if businesses don’t provide the right supporting structure for working from home.

“Ensuring a healthy and safe working environment, clear expectations of your workforce, regular interaction to keep people informed and reduce misunderstandings, and policies and procedures are a good starting point.”

One Central Coast family which has seen positive benefits of working from home through the pandemic is the Hueston family of Copacabana.

Wellness advocate Kim Hueston and her husband Rob, who works in IT, have been working from home for three months and, until schools resumed recently, were home schooling their two teenage children.

Kim Hueston, who runs the online business The Tribal Wellness Movement with a partner, said being forced to sacrifice her second job, in retail, through the pandemic, had given her the opportunity to expand the “online health retreat” to include virtual fitness classes four times a week.

This is a practice she hopes to keep going beyond COVID-19, despite having resumed her part-time retail job.

“It’s all about helping people stay healthy mentally and physically through uncertain times,” Hueston said.

“A lot of blessings came out of our period of working just from home.

“My husband, who works in IT and travels to Sydney and other places, even overseas, for work, has been working remotely.

“It has been working well for both of us because we are both very driven and I can see a more flexible work environment for him and many others long term.’

“A lot of large organisations are realising the power of being able to [have people] work remotely.

“There is more encouragement for staff to work from home – a lot depends on the management of each company.”

Hueston said the family unit had grown closer as daughters Mia and Zara, studied from home until recently.

“We did fitness sessions together, we took walks together, we played card games,” she said.

“It was very old school – we just enjoyed all being together.

“I really think this period of isolation will make us reconsider how much we take on board as a family as we try to hold on to some of the simplicity working from home offered to us.

“I think there’ll be a lot of people who discover working remotely works for them.”

Gavin Williams, Chief Development Officer, Regional and Remote, for NBN Co, said there had been a significant increase in online activity during the pandemic as Australians rely on broadband to work from home, access telehealth services, learn new skills, connect with friends and family and enjoy entertainment.

“Our research shows that people have significantly increased their use of online services and that many expect new online habits to stick as life returns to normal,” Williams said.

“One of the activities that is being heavily supported by access to fast and reliable broadband is telehealth.

“The waiting room is no longer an essential stop on the path to see a GP and now more than ever Australians of all ages are accessing telehealth services – a trend that is likely to continue once restrictions have lifted.”

Media release, May 28
Interview, Jun 2
Kim Hueston
Media release, Jun 2
Business NSW Central Coast Regional Director, Paula martin
Reporter: Terry Collins