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Flexibility vs Finance: Where do Australia’s priorities lie?

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Australia is a natural leader in remote and flexible working options – this blog explains why

When strategists look for clues as to how the modern workplace is changing, where do you think they look? London? Silicon Valley? The tech hub of Bangalore?

Actually, they’re looking at Australia to provide a model.

Because when it comes to what matters most about remote and flexible work arrangements – people’s attitudes – our lucky country is front and centre. Of course salaries and wages remain a factor; it’s just that in here in Australia other areas of life matter too. Work/life balance, personal happiness and fulfillment, balancing the office and the home.

Perhaps it’s our frontier spirit. Our economic success. Our shared history as a largely immigrant nation. Or the mix of influences you see in any Australian city: Western to Eastern and everything in between. But whatever the driver, it’s great news. Because it suggests that in the changing global workplace, Australian attitudes are right for the times we live in – so they’re worth your attention.

In this blog, you’ll find out why the Australian model appears to be working so well, and how technology can help us thrive in the next decade and beyond.

ATTITUDE #1: relaxed relations between pay grades

Over in Europe, an invitation from top management to work from home one day a week might be seen as a reduction of status. In America, a request for the same might be seen as the sign of a slacker. But in Australia we seem to have got the balance just right.

With average wage rises stuck below 3% (and that’s a global phenomenon, not one applicable to Australia) a higher income simply isn’t the main motivator for many of us, even in expensive areas like Sydney. And this attitude is shared by people at different heights on the greasy pole.

“Long commutes, unachievable housing prices and expensive child-care costs have forced Australians to re-evaluate how they can manage their personal and professional aspirations,” – Aaron McEwan, HR advisory leader, CEB

On these shores, an offer from the boss to work from home is welcomed for what it is: a sensible way to improve work/life balance. While a request from a lower-level worker for the same is also viewed without negativity, perhaps thanks to our egalitarian social model. The great social differences between employer and employee that you see in some regions simply don’t apply here. This anti-us-and-them mentality happens to be great for business, too: in some surveys work-from-homers delivered as much as 13% more productivity.

There’s one caveat, though. Remote workers succeed or fail based on how effective their communication is with the company – and the phone alone isn’t the answer. So if your team is interested in greater work/life balance, check out videoconferencing solutions that let you stay in touch no matter how far apart the team members are.

ATTITUDE #2: a shared love of being out and about

Australians young and old have always been great travellers. And it’s another winning attitude which makes remote and flexible working structures a more integral part of Australian professional life. Being stuck in an office isn’t seen as being the only place to do “work”, any more than being under the big blue sky is always “leisure”. (Ask anyone on a cattle station.)

So perhaps we Australians are more comfortable than most with the idea of working from the beach, or the living room, or on the road. At a time when international issues are forcing some countries to look inwards, we’re reaching out. To our fast-growing neighbours in Asia, to the enormous potential of China, even further afield to the exciting economies of India and South America.

Again, though, there’s a caveat. While pretty much all Australians are open to the idea of flexible working, just 53% of employers offer it overtly. That means there’s still a fair few companies that need convincing. If you’re on the fence, why not check out how web conferencing can help all your employees feel they’re in the same room, even when separated by time zones?

ATTITUDE #3: long distance communication being natural

Having over 50 different offices functioning across more than 30 different countries, we at Arkadin know a thing or two about long-distance business communications. But we still manage to provide seamless multilingual support for all of our partners and customers – 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Having a whole host of high-end collaborations services at our fingertips helps of course, but underpinning that is our mindset.

Here in Australia, everyone sees long-distance communication as part and parcel of our business. We’re well-connected, but isolated. Businesses across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane are constantly collaborating and networking, but if face-to-face meetings were needed across these territories alone, you’d be looking at a 5,000 mile-round trip! That’s why dealing with people in different time zones comes naturally to us – the vastness of our country doesn’t leave us much choice.

That’s what makes so many of our employers fully open to letting their workers do their thing from a distance. (Although less than 14% have a written strategy for it.) Think back to the 60s, when an entire generation of Australians educated their children over a radio link.

It’s this history that has helped to establish Australia as a natural leader in remote and flexible working. And today’s technology gives us even more of an edge. An event no longer takes place in a single location: thousands of people can attend virtually. And casting your recruitment net wider gives you access to the best people. In this changing world of work, the vastness of our country is now looking more like an asset.

ATTITUDE #4: an appreciation of what life’s really about

Work is important. And given our economic success, practically avoiding the global downturn altogether, it seems we Australians are pretty good at work. But perhaps the biggest reason for our interest in remote and flexible working arrangements is simpler: we don’t see work as the be-all and end-all of life.

Melbourne is the first city to have held the number one spot of The Economist’s global liveability survey for six years running – and with good reason. Whether they’re Melburnians, Sydneysiders or from elsewhere in the country, all Australians truly value their time outside of work – it’s in our DNA. If we can get our week’s work done and still be able to enjoy an ice cold beer down the pub on a Friday afternoon, we’re happy campers.

Employees at all levels enjoy the side effects of doing good work: great food, family time, the great outdoors. Flexible work arrangements mean we can give more of these benefits to everyone. Avoiding the commute every day can create one extra hour for more work and one extra hour for family. Ultimately, that’s why so many business owners are open to offering flexible conditions. It facilitates a terrific work/life balance…and it’s just good business.

Those in the know are going the whole hog with unified communications, bringing together multiple communication and collaboration tools to all the different devices workers own today, both company-provided and personally-owned. If you need to check the legal framework of flexible working, see this summary.

A good work/life balance is a big positive when it comes to retaining your best and brightest. So if you’re an employer, make sure your openness to it is obvious. It’ll boost morale, and you’ll enjoy a larger pool of applicants to recruit from – especially with regards to millennials.

Here at Arkadin for example, our offices in Australia and New Zealand offer employees at least two company-endorsed days per month to work from home – and we can proudly say that our staff have never been more focused, happy and productive. And of course, correspondence never suffers, thanks to our top-tier UC solutions.

Work’s not all about money, nor is life all about not working. With a nuanced view on the value of chasing a pay rise versus enjoying life as a whole, Australians are leading the world as the workplace evolves, and with smart use of the right technology, your business can make the most of it too.

Find out how by talking to Arkadin.

Takaways:

  • Australia is showing the world the value of remote and flexible work arrangements
  • Australia’s place in the world makes us a natural leader when working virtually
  • The right technology choices dispel all worries about remote workers being out of the loop
  • A land of vast distances is ideal for remote and flexible work
  • Relaxed relationships between colleagues make requesting flexible arrangements easier

Get in touch with the needs of your flexible workforce, and ensure your employees retain peak levels of productivity no matter where they are in the world. Download: The Connected Business: Anywhere, Anytime, Anyhow. Empowering a Flexible Workforce.

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About the author

Daniel Nesci has spent most of his working life within the unified collaboration arena. He has led teams in the UK and ANZ. His current role is Sales Director for the ANZ region at Arkadin. Daniel’s main drivers are to assist as many businesses through their digital transformation journey, delivering sustainable solutions that add value and productivity gains to corporate businesses in ANZ. Delivering this by empowering his people to be the conduit of information between the technology and the needs of the customer.

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