The number of Australian businesses adopting teleworking has increased despite restrictions around COVID-19 starting to ease into 2021, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed.
The ABS said 30 percent of employing Australian businesses reported that they had staff currently teleworking, up from 20 percent before the COVID-19 restrictions, but also down from 43 percent reported in September 2020. The data was collected between 14 April and 21 April 2021.
Of the businesses that had staff teleworking prior to COVID-19, 27 percent increased the proportion of staff teleworking and 33 percent increased the frequency of staff teleworking.
Businesses listed under “Information Media and Telecommunications” increased the proportion of staff teleworking by 14 percent and the frequency by 13 percent. For those that already had teleworking staff before COVID-19, the proportion increased 57 percent and frequency was up 54 percent.
Among all businesses, larger ones were twice as likely as small businesses to have introduced teleworking in response to COVID-19 (40 percent compared to 21 percent). Of those already working remotely, large businesses were also more likely to have increased the proportion of staff teleworking (83 percent compared to 23 percent) as well as frequency (81 percent compared to 30 percent).
Most of the companies also reported they expect to have staff teleworking on a long-term basis, at 80 percent of the businesses with staff currently teleworking.
Among those businesses, most have reported the arrangements will stay the same (60 percent), with some expecting to see a decrease (19 percent) and completely return to the office (9 percent). Only 1 percent expected the teleworking to increase, while another 11 percent were unsure.
The ABS also collected the companies’ reported benefits of having staff teleworking, including improved staff wellbeing (45 percent); reduced overheads (27 percent); increased productivity (26 percent); improved staff retention (18 percent); and a broader recruitment pool (6 percent).
Also surveyed among companies were supply chain disruptions, with 30 percent reporting supply chain disruptions to varying extents, ranging from having some delays to being unable to obtain certain items and having a significant impact on revenue.
Most companies reported being affected to a small extent (57 percent), while 37 percent had a greater effect on their operations. Three percent said they were not affected at all.
ABS head of industry statistics John Shepherd said businesses are responding to these supply chain disruptions by changing ordering processes (62 percent), changing the way products or services are provided to customers (41 percent) and changing suppliers (39 percent).
For businesses listed under “Information Media and Telecommunications”, 25 percent reported they are currently experiencing supply chain disruptions, and of those 42 percent were affected by a small extent while 58 percent were affected by a great extent.
Finally, the ABS also reported the businesses that have been affected by COVID safe controls, including additional cleaning requirements, provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff and physical distancing of customers and employees.
The report said 64 percent of the companies were adversely affected by these controls, while 21 percent were being impacted by at least one of these controls to a great extent.