It’s not a difficult scene to have to imagine.
It will come to you quite easily.
Ready…Monday morning traffic.
It’s 7:30am and you’re stuck on the M2, M7, F3 or whatever road, freeway, highway, creek, river or mountain you have to cross to get to work. There are the occasional breaks of traffic, your stifled applause interrupted by the usual sight around the bend, a back to back, bumper to bumper car park of a road. For some strange reason, you think that today, things might be different. Everyone else in Sydney is running late, having a “sickie” or affected by a virus outbreak in your surrounding suburbs. No, it’s just your miss-guided optimism playing with your head again. It’s the same as it was on Friday morning, and every morning before that. It’s Sydney traffic. Roads designed with a three year plan, designed to be ripped up and done again and again. Why, we will never know unless we start a career in politics. Roads that are two lanes too narrow, slapped on for a band aid fix until the public screams enough for changes. The M2, for example, is my chosen route into North Ryde from the Hills area, a 20 minute journey that can take over an hour. It’s hardly the ideal start to the day. But what solutions are there? Should we all be patiently waiting for the extra two lanes? Should we all be taking public transport? For many people who need to be mobile as part of their job, this isn’t an option. So what are some solutions? An immerging new category of workers being supported by employers looking to promote new and efficient ways of keeping staff engaged are “teleworkers”. “Teleworkers” are people 15 years and over, who were employed by a business that was not based at their own home, but they worked at home during normal business hours for a full or part day. Now that’s a way to beat the traffic.
Recent statistics indicate that most teleworkers were aged 35-44 years, while those aged 45-54 years accounted for the largest proportion of employed people who spent all day in the office then only worked at home after normal business hours.
Almost three-quarters (74%) of teleworking employees worked in the private sector. However, a greater proportion of public sector employees teleworked. Of those who worked for the government or public service 10% teleworked, while 7% of private sector employees teleworked.
The main reasons for teleworking were ‘work commitments/job requires it’ (33%), ‘less distractions’ (15%), ‘childcare/family considerations’ (13%) and ‘greater productivity’ (12%). ‘Childcare and family considerations’ were the main reason for one-fifth of women, compared to less than one-tenth of men (21% compared to 7%).
The future, it seems, is pro-flexible working arrangements. In fifty plus years, we will surely be looking back and laughing at how millions of Sydneysiders tried to all squeeze through our roads at the same time each morning and afternoon, rather than utilizing the technology that we have to work from home or remotely. Don’t get me wrong, we all need the human touch and video conference calls don’t achieve the same result as a face to face meeting, but surely there is room to find a middle ground. There are many organizations that have explored flexible working arrangement successfully, but many are yet to invest time in this worthwhile endeavour. The road blocks are security, trust and productivity. But the advantages are engaged staff, attraction and retention which will ultimately lead to improved productivity anyway. Not to mention taking traffic off our roads, avoiding tolls and petrol costs for those struggling with the rising costs of living in this city.
The mentality that being at your desk by a certain time and not leaving till the clock hits a number on the office clock, needs to be addressed. Modern businesses are looking for results, results and results. Hitting targets, meeting and exceeding expectations and working to a common vision. Do we need to be in meetings every day that seem to drag on and waste valuable work time to achieve this?
If organizations have the ways and means of tracking performance, attendance and behaviour through regular reporting, then why can’t we move more quickly to our inevitable future? Sitting at your desk from 8:30am to 5:00pm, without providing strong performance surely doesn’t mean much anymore? The quicker your organisation moves towards this future, the stronger your employer brand will be.
There are also the indirect benefits. Working from home or remotely may inject structure for staff as it will force employees to plan their days and weeks. Arranging meetings and projects with more advanced notice rather than stumbling through an unstructured week.
Whatever the future holds, it’s closer if we want it to be. We may see business hubs in every suburb, sporting the latest in office technology where organizations and individuals rent serviced space for their staff with high security, super fast internet speeds and every office gadget known to modern man. Gone are those days of choking on exhaust fumes, getting RSI in your “braking” foot and listening to the same song twice on the same journey into work.
And for all those senior managers fuming about how this will never be achieved in their organization, think about this. If you can’t trust your staff to get the job done, after they have been well trained and with the tools they need, maybe you need to start looking for new people.