Australians are still working from home even as offices reopen, data show

Government data show that in February, nearly twice the normal share of the Australian workforce worked from home at least one day a week than before the pandemic. — AFP Relaxnews

Australians with working-from-home arrangements appear to be on a permanent foothold, with the popularity of the arrangement rising even as workplaces reopen, global jobs website Indeed Inc said.

Three-quarters of industries saw greater citations of ‘working remotely’ descriptions in job advertisement during the three months through February, compared with the averages from April to November 2020, Callam Pickering, an economist at Indeed, said in a research note released in Sydney Tuesday.

The trend dovetails with Australians opting to rebase to regional areas during the pandemic as remote working arrangements allowed them to tap more affordable housing or enjoy a better lifestyle.

The research showed that at the end of February, 8.9% of Indeed Australia job postings featured keywords related to remote work in their employment descriptions, up from 4.3% in January and February 2020.

“While local transmission of Covid-19 is low and most industries are operating at normal capacity, work-from-home arrangements remain as popular in Australia as they were at the height of the pandemic,” said Picketing, who previously worked at the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Government data show that in February, nearly twice the normal share of the workforce worked from home at least one day a week than before the pandemic.

Snap back

Australia’s economy and labour market have recovered strongly from the pandemic as authorities managed to limit Covid-19 to local flare ups. The jobless rate dropped half a percentage point to 5.8% in February, down from a pandemic peak of 7.5%, and the need to offer flexible working arrangements suggests employers might be having difficulty attracting the right people.

Australia’s total payrolls advanced by 0.2% in the year to March 13, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said in a statement Tuesday, meaning the economy has now recovered the jobs lost during the pandemic.

“Workers and businesses alike want to know whether work-from-home arrangements are the new normal,” Pickering said. “Though it is too early to say, our data show little moderation in use of remote keywords thus far. Remote posting shares remain near record highs.”

He noted that recent short-term lockdowns may have delayed the return to offices and other workplaces, creating uncertainty for Australian businesses. Brisbane, the nation’s third most-populous city, entered a three-day lockdown Monday due to an outbreak of the UK strain of the coronavirus.

“The rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in the months ahead will provide clues whether elevated work-from-home shares are here to stay,” Pickering said. – Bloomberg

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