We are still waiting to learn the results of Australia’s 2016 census, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has turned out some data about the country’s workforce. According to its Characteristics of Employment Report, released just last week, one third of employees are working from home and a quarter are ‘on call’.
These numbers are based on data collected from August 2015 and include input from more than 11 million employed persons 15 years and older. On the face of it, more people working from home sounds like a win for flexible working and virtual workplaces. But according to the data, it has less to do with a work-from-anywhere mindset and more to do with Australians not sticking to the standard 40-hour work week.
Of the 3.5 million who reported regularly working from home, 42 per cent did so to catch up on work they couldn’t complete during office hours. What’s more, 24 per cent of people are expected to be on call or standby, while 27 per cent work on both weekdays and weekends.
It’s an unhealthy habit, and one that many employees are unhappy with: 1.8 million people say they would prefer to work fewer hours, with 36 per cent wanting to work six to 10 fewer weekly hours, and 16 per cent wanting to work 11 to 15 less per week, according to the ABS report.
It might be unrealistic for some industries to cut work hours so drastically, but it’s not out of the question.Demand for flexible work options has skyrocketed in recent years, and workplaces are responding by adopting policies to help employees cut the digital chord and not work after hours.
A new report by the Work and Family Policy Roundtable, a national network of academics, is urging the Federal Government to introduce tougher restrictions on working hours, keeping them to a maximum of 38 per week. Many companies are already introducing shorter or compressed work weeks, such as Amazon, Deloitte and Google. Some countries, such as Sweden, have implemented shorter work days as well.
Feedback about paid leave options also indicates that young employees struggle the most. More than 70 per cent of employees aged 15-19 had no leave entitlements, followed closely by 20-24 year olds, 42 per cent of whom had no leave entitlements. One interesting distinction between those with paid leave and without involved when during the week they worked. Some 80 per cent of employees who work weekdays have paid leave; that number is flipped for those working on weekends, where 79 per cent had no paid leave.
The data is indicative indicative of shifting labour markets more than previous years, though. The ABS report points to some interesting trends about the rise of freelancers. More than 1 million people (or about 9 per cent of the working population) work as independent contractors for their main job. Of these, 73 per cent usually worked from home, and 86 per cent usually worked five or more days a week.