Will work from home become the new norm for public sector workers?

By Hannah Kingston

Monday October 12, 2020

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Will work from home become the new normal for public sector workers?

According to The Mandarin‘s own reportage of the future of work from home, as well as a 2018 study from The Conversation, it looks like it’s a way of life that could indeed be on the cards for the workforce.

Prior to the pandemic, it was unlikely that there would ever be an opportunity to see what would happen if the majority of any given workforce was to work from home and the corresponding results of this move.

COVID-19 has given key stakeholders in both the private and public sectors, the opportunity to survey the outcome, when it comes to productivity, communication and general team morale.

Fifty-seven percent of the public sector moved to work from home by the end of May. One-third of employed Australians fell into the work from home category according to 2019 ABS data.

According to a survey of 6,000 APS employees as reported by The Mandarin:

  • One in four  respondents reported working longer hours than they worked before the pandemic;
  • Almost three-quarters of respondents reported that they chose to work their usual hours;
  • Over three in five agreed that working from home gave them more autonomy over when they could work;
  • Almost two-thirds agreed that they achieved more working from home than when in their regular workplace;
  • Over four in five employees agreed that it gave them more time with their families; and
  • Fewer than 10% of respondents want to spend all their time in their usual, pre-COVID workplace.

According to a survey among management teams in the public sector as reported by The Conversation:

  • 8.4% of managers rated their teams less productive when working from home;
  • 57% thought productivity remained the same while working from home; and
  • 34.6% believed that working from home was leading to higher levels of productivity among their team.

The results of the survey show that employees are largely positive towards the prospect of working from home, with the three main causes of this increased positivity being: 1) having more time to spend with family; 2) getting more work done; and 3) feeling that they have more autonomy over their work.

The results of the survey show that negative feedback surrounding the move to work from home was largely related to: 1) feeling isolated; 2) receiving a lower level of feedback on their work; and 3) feeling a blurred line between their professional and personal lives.

The results largely showcase that employees are happy to work from home, and importantly for managers, it has not affected productivity in the way they may have previously thought it would.

Three-quarters of employees say that they continue to work the same number of hours while one in four employees say that they are working longer hours than usual, due to an increased workload or feeling more engaged with their work. On average, across the globe, the average workday has increased by 48.5 minutes.

Will work from home for the public sector become the new normal in the face of the above pros and cons?

If it comes down to management, it could certainly become easier for those who prefer this new way of working. Two-thirds of managers said that they intended to be more supportive of working from home (68% male and 63.6% female).

Only 2% of managers said that following the 2020 work from home experience, they will be less likely to support employees working from home.

While the future of work from home is uncertain, it’s a feature that could certainly feature in the future.


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