March 26th, 2020
Comparing and Contrasting Teleworking in the United States VS. in Australia
By Jessica Hall
Unprecedented events are rapidly changing the way teams work together, and social distancing recommendations have caused a shift to telework globally. While working remotely is the right thing to do at this time to reduce the COVID-19 spread, it’s a disruptive transition to make. In this blog post we explore exactly what telework is, and what differences and similarities of telework there are between Australia and the US.
What is telework?
Telework is an agreement between an employer and an employee that daily work by the employee can be completed in a flexible location, usually their home. Telework usually takes places during set hours and should not be confused with freelance work. Teleworking involves giving employees access and authorisation to the tools they need to complete their work from anywhere in the world.
How do Australian and United States definitions of telework vary?
The US definition of telework is taken from the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 and states that telework is a flexible arrangement where an employer authorises activities for an employee from an approved worksite. Alternatively, while the Australian and US definitions are similar, the Australian government base their definition on a 2013 APS telework trial and accompanying telework policy development. The Australian definition states that telework is a flexible work arrangement that is enabled through technology.
Telework and productivity
Many organisations hesitate to introduce telework, as they fear without constant supervision, the productivity of their employees will decrease. However, if telework is introduced properly it should not have any negative effects on employee productivity. In fact, a 2019 study found that employees who are able to work remotely as least once a month are 24% more likely to feel happy and productive.
How to ensure employees remain productive while teleworking
Just because an employee is not physically present in an office, does not mean that they should be excluded from regular communication. Ensure to video chat or voice call them on a regular basis as some information can be lost in email and document chains. This will also ensure the employee still feels like part of the team, even though they are not physically present.
Some employees may be confused as to why they have been chosen to telework and may think it is due to a negative perception of their character which can lower their morale and productivity. If you are introducing telework to an employee ensure you take the time to explain to them they have been chosen due to their job functions and positive work performance, this should ensure they remain positive and productive.
How does teleworking productivity differ for US and Australian workers?
Between 2005 and 2015, the number of employees teleworking in the US increased by 115%. Four years later, over 26 million Americans (roughly 16% of the US workforce) were teleworking on either a full or part-time basis. This number has peaked significantly due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, and is expected to remain high after the effect of the virus is reduced. The percentage of teleworkers rising can only suggest that productivity has not been an issue for US employees, as otherwise, telework would not continue to be adopted.
In Australia, the latest telework statistics available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that roughly one-quarter of Australian workers, around 24%, worked at least part-time from their home. Although this number appears to be higher than US workers, many people in the survey who completed work from home explained they did it to complete extra work and only 1% had a formal teleworking agreement with their employer. So, why are Australian organisations seemingly more hesitant to promote teleworking?
Potential limitations of teleworking in Australia
• Limited social interactions
Limited social interactions may have a negative effect on an employee’s mental health if they rely on work for social interactions.
• Longer working hours
Some employee may fear without an office structure they may end up working longer hours.
• Harder for work to be completed
Some employers may fear that employees won’t be able to complete their work as efficiently at home due to not having access to as many resources.
With the right management software, many of these concerns can be eliminated. For example, RMM and multi-tenancy software can ensure an employee can access the work they need from anywhere in the world. Similarly, automated control can help manage employee workflow by giving specific employees access to user-specific portals.
Comparing the benefits of telework
If Australian and United States organisations use the right software and follow the aforementioned tips for improving employee productivity and operational management, they can enjoy the same benefits of teleworking; just some of these benefits include…
Lower overhead costs
With employees teleworking, most likely from their homes, an organisation can opt for a smaller office, or no office at all if all employees are teleworking. This will help organisations save a significant amount financially and lower their overhead costs.
Greater work/life balance
If employees are able to stick to regulated hours whilst working, they will be able to create a greater work/life balance for themselves. As employees will not need to commute to and from work they will have more free time to spend as they wish, for example, with their families.
Fewer office distractions
Often working in an office can be hectic, from constant noise to everyday dramas, teleworking can help employees create a work environment that they prosper in. For example, one employee may wish to work in complete silence whilst another may wish to listen to loud classical music.
Telework and Opmantek
Want to learn more about how Opmantek’s remote monitoring and management and RMM solutions can increase your network visibility, deliver unmatched automation, save money for your managed service organisation and increase profitability? Request a personalised demo from one of our engineers here.
U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics