Stak­ing out

The ben­e­fits of work­ing at home are there for the ask­ing, Ben Pike writes

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TECH­NO­LOG­I­CAL in­no­va­tion and em­ploy­ees’ de­mands for a bet­ter work/life bal­ance is driv­ing a push for more peo­ple to work from home than ever be­fore.

But if work­ers want to be­gin the new year with a bet­ter work ar­range­ment, they need to pitch it to the boss now and in the right way, ex­perts say.

As Aus­tralia shifts to a more ser­vice and dig­i­tal-based econ­omy, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is aim­ing to have one in eight peo­ple work­ing from home – on a full or part-time ba­sis – by the end of the decade.

The ma­jor­ity of that growth is likely to be in the over-35 age cat­e­gory, Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics fig­ures show.

Up to 78 per cent of work­ers cur­rently work­ing from home are aged 35 years or older com­pared with 61 per cent of all em­ployed peo­ple. ring­ing and peo­ple com­ing by my desk’,’’ she says.

‘‘ I went on to ask for a trial work­ing from home to see if my pro­duc­tiv­ity im­proved.

‘‘ It worked out well be­cause my em­ployer said ‘ yes’ (af­ter the trial).’’

Barr now acts as a pro­duc­tiv­ity con­sul­tant.

She says that peo­ple who work from home can ac­tu­ally be more pro­duc­tive be­cause the job can be more at­tuned to their life­style.

‘‘ Em­ploy­ees need to have a clear vi­sion of where they want to go with their com­pany and have that bro­ken down into spe­cific goals,’’ she says. THE in­dus­try with the most peo­ple work­ing from home is con­struc­tion (16 per cent), fol­lowed by pro­fes­sional, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal ser­vices (14 per cent).

Many in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy roles are suited to work­ing from home, as are mar­ket­ing and con­sul­ta­tion oc­cu­pa­tions.

Kenelm Tonkin, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of con­fer­ence com­pany Tonkin Cor­po­ra­tion, says teleworking only works well with ser­vice-based oc­cu­pa­tions and tasks that can be out­sourced.

‘‘ The em­ployee also needs to be a ma­ture per­son with fi­nan­cial and fam­ily com­mit­ments,’’ he says.

‘‘ Em­ploy­ers (with younger em­ploy­ees) will be look­ing over their shoul­der not see­ing the work done.

‘‘ Thirdly, the job needs to have a de­fined out­put that runs ac­cord­ing to a dead­line.’’

Tonkin adds that work­ers need face time with the boss.

‘‘ Hu­mans, be­ing what they are, you have to eye­ball each other at some point.’’ THE con­struc­tion of the Na­tional Broad­band Net­work, quick­en­ing in­ter­net speeds, mo­bile tech­nol­ogy and the in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the on­line tele-visual pro­gram Skype have been fuelling the in­crease in teleworking.

Cloud tech­nol­ogy – where soft­ware and work sys­tems are ac­cessed from any­where on­line rather than only in the of­fice – also has made it eas­ier to cre­ate net­works of work­ers in dis­parate lo­ca­tions.

ABS fig­ures show 84 per cent of peo­ple work­ing from home are us­ing in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy.

In­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy Pro­fes­sor Chengqi Zhang, from the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Sydney, says the NBN will make tele­con­fer­enc­ing much eas­ier and in­crease num­bers work­ing from home.

‘‘ If the in­ter­net speeds are fast enough, you can have a vir­tual room for dis­cus­sions where peo­ple can meet on­line,’’ he says.

‘‘ Staff re­cruit­ment can be made a lot eas­ier be­cause peo­ple can make a vir­tual pre­sen­ta­tion and not have to travel long dis­tances. Cur­rently the in­ter­net speed is not good enough for that.’’

Traci St Lawrence (pic­tured with daugh­ter Cas­sidy Mor­ris on cover) is the in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions and so­cial me­dia man­ager at Unisys.

The mother of two works from her Sydney home two days a week and in the city the other three days, sav­ing two hours of com­mut­ing a week.

She says it’s im­por­tant to have a sep­a­rate room at home in which to work.

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