Study predicts the end of the office
The 2013 Regus Global Economic Indicator reveals that those professionals who are tied to the office desk five days a week will soon be the minority – with 64% of Australian business leaders now reporting that they manage someone who works remotely for at least some of the time.
While chief executives may worry about the challenges of motivating and managing staff at a distance, just under a half (49%) of Australian respondents reported that effective management of remote workers is perfectly achievable if managers undergo special training. The Regus survey canvassed over 26,000 business managers across 90 countries, including 680 respondents in Australia.
Key findings in Australia show:
- 51% said their superiors consider trust an important issue
- 44% said they are supervised by a remote manager
- 38% of companies use formal reporting systems to monitor mobile employee efficiency
- 45% use video communication between managers and remote employees
- 35% work remotely for half the week or more
Country Head of Regus Australia Jacqueline Lehmann said: “More than a third of Australian professionals work remotely for half the week or more, and while we have some way to go to catch up to the US (47%) and the UK (42%), the research indicates that the days of the Monday to Friday office as home to the majority of professionals are numbered.
“The trend towards remote working is stronger than ever. The findings of this survey back what we are hearing from business people here in Australia. Trust and freedom play a key role in remote management and, once these are in place, the benefits are clear for all to see: greater productivity, improved staff retention and lower operating costs.”
The research also found that while 61% of Australian respondents working in larger companies report to a manager who works remotely, only 35% of those working for smaller businesses had a direct manager not based in the office. For both large and small companies, approximately half of respondents said that management in their company worry about how remote workers use their time.
In the US, health insurer Aetna, a thought leader in the field, has added training courses to the mix so remote workers and their managers can be brought up to speed on effective flexible working methods. Of Aetna's 35,000 employees, 14,500 do not have a desk. Here in Australia, 38% of companies have a specific reporting system for managers to monitor efficiency in teams that work remotely at least some of the time.
Ms Lehmann commented: “The good news is that technology has made remote management accessible to companies big and small. Traditionally, larger companies have held the advantage. However thanks to the cloud and the easy availability and low cost of collaboration applications, like Harvest or Basecamp, a company of any size can now effectively manage remote working.
“Here in Australia, Regus finds itself supporting many start-ups and SMEs with flexible workplaces such as business lounges or co-working spaces. It’s not just the big companies that are benefiting from the advantages of a remote workforce – in the future flexible working is something that the millions of Australians working for small businesses can look forward to.”
 Reuters. com, In telecommuting debate, Aetna sticks by big at-home workforce, 1st March 2013