The hidden costs of remote working in Australia
Over the last two years, remote work has rapidly become normalised. Between lockdowns, digital transformation and employees leaving city life, remote work has been at the centre. But while many are reaping the benefits of remote work in Australia, some downsides have also surfaced, compelling organisations to be more agile in the face of uncertainty and creative in addressing challenges.
Employees across Australia have proven that remote work is doable and even conducive to productivity. However, organisations often overlook the hidden costs of remote work that should be considered when choosing between a full return to the physical office, or a work-from-home situation or a hybrid environment.
It’s hard for organisational leaders to have visibility of the full cost of the new business norms, making it difficult to measure whole business performance against the physical and non-physical costs of a remote workforce. Below are some common costs that are often overlooked when considering the right organisational workplace strategy.
Maintaining a secure and usable network infrastructure for a remote workforce can be a trying operation. Between laptops, cables, monitors, office technology plus other additional costs for online communication, using workable tech infrastructure has become more crucial than ever for businesses to remain operable. While using online communication platforms to maintain workplace connection is necessary for most businesses, companies need to measure the value of these platforms against the resilience and cost of the network infrastructure.
Security and data integrity
The integrity and security of your company information is paramount. One survey showed that 73 per cent of Australian organisations were exposed to cyber-attacks specifically targeting remote workers over the past year. Remote work has inevitably led to an increased dependency on online working and communication which can lead to an increased susceptibility to data breaches. Investing in more robust cybersecurity frameworks may be a significant expense but it is necessary to maintain data security (and otherwise could be much more costly).
Adapting operations to different time zones and geographical locations
Coordinating times for managers and teams to align their schedules or arrange meetings can be logistically challenging when working across multiple time zones and locations. This could be taking up valuable time that could be better allocated towards an individual’s day-to-day tasks. Additionally, this can put greater pressure on an employee’s daily capacity, inhibit team collaborative culture and could manifest into burnout and potentially increased turnover.
Maintaining organisational culture within a remote workforce is challenging yet critical for employee engagement. The hard costs of remote work like equipment usage can be factored in, however, soft costs relating to employee connection, collaboration and engagement can be much more challenging to interpret. Remote work may involve added time, effort and money to keep employees connected, engaging in collaborative work and feeling less isolated while working from afar.
How to combat these challenges
Organisations need the capability to embrace transitional phases and weigh up the tangible and intangible costs of remote working. But it is important to note that neither change nor challenge are synonymous with ‘bad’. Organisations have the opportunity to be creative with their approach to the new world of working. Businesses need to establish policies and procedures that offer a collaborative, inclusive and secure framework for a hybrid workplace. These policies should be consistently reviewed and clearly communicated to your workforce to ensure their success.
Remote work in Australia isn’t going anywhere, but a carefully planned hybrid approach will be the future of work for many. Download the progressive leader’s guide to the future of work and be on your way to creating a high-performing hybrid workplace.