How we live and work is changing as Australia enters a new era following COVID-19 pandemic. Most topical is more people having to work from home (WFH). ABS figures end of May, 46% WFH.
During the pandemic social distancing requirements closed many businesses, with people having to set up home offices, attend meetings via Videoconferencing and manage best way possible. How many conversations have you heard, “you’re on mute, unmute yourself”!
Feedback from those WFH has enabled insights into physical aspects of WFH and duty of care required by employers. However, we’re now seeing physical and mental health issues arise that need to be addressed.
Current estimates range from 20% to 40% WFH to some extent. Post pandemic, we may see one in five employees embedded into WFH at different levels and in an environment that should be conducive to work life balance. However, travel time is now work time, internet world and videoconferencing has impacted family and social time.
Not forgetting the social impact, implications of people being at home longer, from a building perspective, will see increases in repair and maintenance, renovating and re-purposing homes in many areas. Opportunity for architects and home builders to “standardize” a purpose-built W&LFH home (work and learn), that’ll become the norm.
How new is WFH? We know people have worked from home for a long time, but some jobs can’t be. Australian Census has included a question on this since 1991. The 2016 Census recorded 503,581 people working at home on Census day: 4.7% of the total workforce, or around 1 in 20 people, up from 4.4% in 2011. Although the prospect of widespread remote working has been discussed for many years, there’s no indication of a significant move to this style of working prior to COVID-19.
This shows that working from home – before COVID-19 – was the exception rather than the rule. So, up to 2016, the likelihood of an employee WFH or elsewhere was low. This makes the change we’re seeing with COVID-19 more remarkable. We don’t know how many are working from home, but even the lowest estimates of 20% would represent approximately a 4-fold increase over 2016 figures, while upper range estimates indicate an 8-fold increase.
Could a virus be what makes WFH mainstream? By 2025, we may see 30% of the workforce WFH, to various degrees.