There is no quick fix for Australia’s skyrocketing price rises for electricity and grocery bills. Australia’s GDP growth is predicted to decline in 2023 due to high inflation, drop in consumer spending, sharp rise in agricultural commodity prices, and high energy prices amid restricted availability following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. No. 1 Christmas wish for most Australians today is to reduce their energy and food bills.
The current dire situation has exposed Australia’s structural flaws in the energy market which were evident long before Covid 19 lockdowns isolated Australia from the rest of the world, and changed forever the way business is done in Australia.
The exponential rise of Australia’s digital economy and online shopping has changed both the consumer behaviour and expectations by Australian workers of their employers. Flexibility has become the key ingredient for Australians when looking for a new job.
Pro’s and Con’s of Working from home
According to the Productivity Commission’s research paper, released in September 2021, only 8 per cent of Australian workers in 2019 had a formal working-from-home (WFH) arrangement.
In mid-2020, at least 4.3 million Australians (or 32% of the workforce) was working remotely, according to research commissioned by Roy Morgan. People aged 24-49 comprised the bulk of those who worked from home (70%). By January 2021, the number of Australians working from home climbed to 40 per cent. Avoiding communing has been flagged as a major reason for Australians not wanting to get back into offices.
Australian Unions’ report from 2020 has found:
“There are many positives of increased working from home including a reduction in commuting time, greater working time autonomy leading to more flexibility and higher productivity. But there are also disadvantages including the tendency towards excessive working hours, to create a dysfunctional overlap between paid work and personal life, increased stress, and risks to health and safety.”
Families with small children and primary school students found it particularly hard to balance their work commitments and education from home amid Covid 19 lockdowns and school closures. The social, emotional, behavioral and learning consequences for children who started school during the stay-at-home orders have multiplied with prolonged lockdowns and uneven responses by the schools to the needs of working parents.
On the other end of the spectrum, young and single employees found it extremely isolating to work from home.
Pandora’s Box has been opened
Melbourne Institute’s Applied Economic & Social Research paper, Taking the Pulse of the Nation, published in February 2022, found that most surveyed Australians (89%) wanted to continue working from home at least some of the workweek.
Michael McQueen, author and business trend forecaster, said that “Pandora’s Box” has been opened as the pandemic changed the balance of power between workers and their employers. Before Covid 19 lockdowns, employers did not trust that their workers’ productivity would be the same if they worked from home. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom found that that productivity output had increased for many companies during WFH arrangements since 2020, with WFH surprisingly fueling economic growth for some industries. Technological advances and Artificial Intelligence also followed this trend to support a growing market and companies planning forward.
It is likely that hybrid working is here to stay in Australia for a long haul.