back to article All those ‘teleworking is the new normal’ predictions? Not so much, say bosses

Remote work may not be the new normal after all, according to Australia’s Bureau of Statistics. The Bureau, Australia’s official gatherer-of-data, conducted a pair of phone surveys in August and September, ending up with a sample of 1,279 businesses and asked what percentage of staff use teleworking. The results, as you’d …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What post plague time would that be? This ain't ever gonna end because now populations are conditioned to accepting martial law expect the jackboot to happen much more frequently

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hopefully the resistance to "martial law" (aka infection control in population) removes them selves from the genepool through there own selfish stupidity, that or bring back leper colonies and rebrand them muppet colonies, and remove the selfish pricks from society, they would be happier among there own impotent rage fuelled kind...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Where in the world is safe from COVID?

        Is there actually anything productive that can be done now, after the many failures of our leadership to take the virus seriously when they had the chance. No, it is all too late

        Will the current oppression/isolation make the nasty disease go away? or instead just costs loads of money and freedom to maybe delay the death of those who are inherantly susceptable to this disease.

        That the fools who's failures allowed the genie out of the bottle remain in control suggests to me at least that they are the last people to trust to get a handle on this

        I would suggest that it is all too late to do anything, triage is all that is remains, not nice but atleast realistic, those that are going to die will.

        If say the UK for example had actually followed the plans to deal with pandemics laid down in the 1970s then yes the disease could have been contained but keeping it out would then have become a full time job until some viable solution became availible.

        Not so easy when we have more people than food production. Even less easy when the food reserves that the original plan relied upon were sold off for a quick buck by the very politcial party that chose to ignore COVID and is now putting everyone else in the country on lockdown whilst they roam as they like.

        I am not confused, they fked up and their failures needlessly killed thousands and still you want to believe and follow them? what does that make you

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Nowhere Secure is Safe from COVID and Postmodern Virtual Reactionaries/Grand AIMasters/Great Wizards

          I am not confused, they fked up and their failures needlessly killed thousands and still you want to believe and follow them? what does that make you...... Anonymous Coward

          Any reply other than to bleat a "Baaah" is not valid. Lambs to the slaughter springs to mind.

          And, can you believe it, they also actually would propose and have the cheek to believe, and have you also mindlessly believe, that increasing taxation and relaunching austerity drives are a present solution to currently provide future payment to whomever/whatever/wherever their profligate deficit spending and overwhelming debt bills come from. It is almost as if they imagine we don't know of their outrageous global scam that requires their license free printing of fiat currency ..... as a poxy proxy and dirt cheap corrupting substitute for value and worth.

          Lambs to the slaughter indeed, is entirely appropriate, for it not as if you were not previously warned of the danger and the temptation .......

          It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. ... Henry Ford

          And there are a whole host of other similar enlightening insights to be gleaned and examined for any present truth on that very particular and peculiar matter here too

          Crikey, we appear to have drifted from COVID and entered into the realms of pretty printed fiat paper currency slavery.That's a neat trick ..... which some might say is on a par with all under discussion here for El Reg peer review/relatively anonymous freely available up/down voting.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Beware ..... Mined Mind Field Ahead ..... Deadly Explosive Ordinances/Destructive Virtual Ordnances

        "martial law" (aka infection control in population) .... Anonymous Coward

        Fortunately, although not necessarily so for martial law enforcement officers, has such always proven itself to be a most ineffective and divisive population control methodology. To imagine it being any different either today or in the future is surely aberrational and also probably almighty dangerous to oneself.

      3. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

        May be growing a pair and realising that this virus is not as dangerous as originally thought would be a good idea?

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Facepalm

      What martial law? People have been instructed to not be assholes, with haphazard enforcement, yielding predictably haphazard results. Jackbooted thugs aren't kicking in your doors because you're too much of a crybaby to wear a mask when you interact with other people, and don't pretend that they are.

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        FAIL

        Oh, look, a downvote with no rebuttal. Allow me to correct my previous point: people have been asked to engage in some basic, straightforward precautions to avoid spreading a disease. This request has been minimally and haphazardly enforced. The Mask Police are not beating on violators. The military has not been called out to maintain order (this, by the way, is the literal meaning of "martial law") or enforce social distancing or mask mandates.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @ "what martial law"

          see second post AC1, "Hopefully the resistance to "martial law" (aka infection control in population)" and was presented as being a limit/ironic punishment upon those that refuse to follow "reasonable restrictions" on behaviour so as to "limit" infection. That AC1 believes it is possible to isolate forever and is oblivious to the fact that when schools/universities reopened in the UK it caused an immediate spike in infections should have suggested isolation is just delaying the inevitable.

          AC1's view is held by many terrified of infection due to press and Government using it to gain sales and power so as to put whatever they like into law.

          For my part I has the intestinal infection and then the pneumatic and deal with both in under 4 hours each. I self isolated before it was a thing because it was moral to do so and informed my child's school at the last since they were the only possible vector. I didn't need to be told what to do it was dictated by my upbringing rather than political mandate that I do not infect my peers.

          Then came the school and country closing whilst Boris had to kissup to the NHS, the very target he and his party have spent decades defunding but would now use to push through what they saw as most important i.e. brexit. Laugh with me at the irony as they try to use their ill-gotten gains to flee the country and the infection they caused only to be thwarted as they are recognised as wanton carriers they are.

          I for one have no fear for myself from COVID, I will live or die based purely upon my upbringing and body's capacity to deal with the infection. So far it has worked but if I loose in the end then I do not want it to be because I limited others freedoms or resources, I accept that I was unfit for the new niche and may my last throught be that I didnt make it worse that it already was.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          rebuttal

          @" people have been asked to engage in some basic, straightforward precautions to avoid spreading a disease" what evidence do you offer to support the premise that the current lockdowns whilst opening schools are effective. For me the schools were the prime vector with children being infected in school and bringing it home to infect the rest of the family. Not everyone can afford home delivery of food but I would say that the controls applied at the shops are amature applied by amatures. This given that shop workers are not required to have any medical or scietific training in order to stock shelves and run a till.

          @"mask police" there are a percentage of people who would have joined the police but were rejected for various reasons. Giving power to these people who want to dictate the behaviour of others without oversight was always going to result in resentment. We already had police and an army and where are they and what are they doing if not their jobs, why must we instead recruit busybodies to do their jobs?

          Simply because the busybodies want the power enough to expose themselves where the police do not.

          So your idea is based upon the idea that everyone is equally likely to be a carrier but I would say that if schools had not been reopened as free babysitting then there would have been less carriers and so less of a problem and no need to bring in amatures without the tools to be effective in their task.

          The majority of infections did not occur in shops or open public places but in schools and over-crowded accomodation. The later is, I suggest, an increasing source vector as people attempt to move out of infected areas taking their infection with them to their new home but the schools of carriers has to be the major vector in the UK.

      2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Jackbooted thugs aren't kicking in your doors...

        Not yet... Now if Harris/Biden had their way though...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          And yet they've never even suggested that. Trump, on the other hand, has made that threat, or "offer" to cities and states, as he would put it.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            I guess the downvoter didn't watch the news during the BLM protests when Trump quite clearly tried to pressure States to deploy the National Guard and actually did deploy National Guard to "protect" federal buildings and clear protesters away for a photo-op.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yet. Was I misinformed when my friend told me that soldiers would be deployed to police mask wearing if the police couldn't cope.

        Think about that.

        Soldiers to enforce mask wearing.

        There had been no foreign war this time round because its economic war this time... But make no mistake the war is on and this time you are the enemy.

        I'm astonished at the naivety of some commentards. This is going only one way and it ain't freedom and democracy.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "Was I misinformed when my friend told me that soldiers would be deployed to police mask wearing if the police couldn't cope."

          Yes, sadly you were misinformed by your friend. I'm sure if you try hard you can find the actual statement on the web somewhere and get the facts first hand instead hearsay "from a friend"

  2. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    Before she retired in 2019, a close friend works for a large Federal Government Agency and they had a strong mentality of:

    1. Working from home is frowned upon unless the person is an EL2 (and above);

    2. Ownership to a laptop is only to a privileged few, like EL2 (and above), and low-level "minions" to be handed laptops is "an affront to the Agency".

    So when COVID-19 hit, it was really "enjoyable" watching a lot of the executives grovel while handing out a laptop and two monitors to each staff without any questions. (The Agency had to "panic buy" all the necessary laptops and monitors.)

    1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo
      Windows

      Covid disrupts feudal corporate culture

      Similar in my company. While laptops are commonplace, since many of us need to be able to travel to partners, customers and other offices of ours, corporate culture is pretty feudal.

      However, we still had to panic buy one or two laptops.

      A couple of months ago, we have done away our landline phones (in fact, they were VoIP phones). The phones themselves were made in hell, so I am quite happy about that move. However, ownership of a company mobile phone was pretty much tied to role (mid management and above) and/or title (only a select few below PhD).

      Hence, our latest hire (a MSc) is totally without a phone. The landlines for the commonfolk are gone, and the mobiles are for the aristocracy.

      Also WfH is pretty much restricted to the aristos, at the first possible moment when the lock-down was lifted, manglement announced a return to office. If you can state comprehensive and essential reasons preventing you to return to office, highest manglement will hear your case, and decide case-by-case.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      We are a manufacturing company, so a majority of staff have to be at work.

      Back office, sales, purchasing etc. did a split of home office and office, often rotating. The IT department I work in was 50/50, half were home office the other half on-site to keep things working (if the Internet wasn't working, resetting firewalls, manually pulling the plug on things like the telephone system when it froze). Most days everything ran smoothly, but when there was a problem, it was good to be on-site.

      The teams that remained were also split up and people moved into the offices of those who were home-working.

      My daily routine hasn't changed much this year, although I did do over 50 Teams training sessions - usually installing Teams remotely and then doing a Teams conference to explain how it worked. The biggest problem was getting headsets - we gave up on cameras, we ordered in March, they turned up mid-August.

  3. chuBb. Silver badge

    Bosses may want people back where they can see them work, (as if results dont speak for themselves) but frankly its up to employees, post covid simple choice you want to WfH and your employer says no, go work for someone who does offer it, WfH will become as common place as 25days annual leave (in the UK) when looking at job listings.

    The luddites will suddenly find WfH is preferable to being understaffed and having to suffer the indignity of rolling sleeves up. That and the bean counters will be liking having a much lower leccy bill, and fortune saved on replacing office furniture, nm all the places which are quitting there leases and downsizing the office to a meeting room and PO box.

    Biggest challenge is more to do with house layouts and creating a good working environment at home (once had to provide a photo of my home office when applying for a remote work role to prove i wasn't coffee table based), than the politics [Says the bloke who has predominantly WfH since the late 90's, and undertsands that the argument of "why do i have to be in the office to connect a vpn to the datacentre, i can do it from home just as easily, work any time i want, and have a better net connection anyway" doesnt apply that well to people who dont look after servers across multiple data centres and continents]

    1. rcxb Silver badge

      Bosses may want people back where they can see them work, (as if results dont speak for themselves)

      Some employees will produce less with WFH, and simply do better in the office, free of distractions/temptations. Some are interested in WfH specifically so they can multitask (e.g. child care) and will be less productive than in-office workers.

      Employers might advertise a job as WfH, but when the results are sub-par, employees faced with coming into the office or suddenly losing their job (at an inopportune time) will overwhelmingly cave to the demands. Without unionization, employers have a heavy advantage over the preferences of their employees.

      How long until employers decide WfH is a perk worth 25% lower salary?

      How long until employers decide with all the WfH staff, they can just go further afield and employ cheaper Romanians (still an EU country), or Indians, or similar?

  4. coconuthead

    percentages are of businesses, not employees

    The percentages in the first bar graph are of the number of businesses, not the number of employees. On the one hand, there are relatively few employers in finance and insurance but they have tens of thousands of employees. On the other hand, you have a large number of businesses like small builders, independent shops and cafes which cannot telework. You can see from the first bar chart only around 15% of businesses switched to teleworking with COVID-19, even though it accounts for almost all white collar workers (as seen from the almost empty roads, trains and offices).

    And you can also see that 2/3 of that 15% intend to continue with telework after COVID-19.

    In other words, the figures show the opposite of what the headline says.

    (The survey is probably correct, as if the ABS nail you for a survey, you have to participate, no matter how time wasting. Ask me how I know...)

    1. chuBb. Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: percentages are of businesses, not employees

      I'll bite, how you know? ;)

      1. coconuthead

        Re: percentages are of businesses, not employees

        They picked on me for a longitudinal survey a few years ago. Once a month for a year I was required to answer questions about the number of hours I had engaged in work or study that month.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: percentages are of businesses, not employees

          From the experience of filling in time sheets allegedly attempting such analysis:

          1. That doesn't fill me with any confidence in the results lying anywhere between wild guesses and entirely arbitrary invention.

          2. The survey will not have attempted to analyse its own cost in terms of time spent.

  5. dedmonst

    Not surprising for Aus

    Having experienced broadband quality and speed in Australia, this doesn't surprise me - may be different in countries with actual first world comms capabilities.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Not surprising for Aus

      You made this key point first!

      No where in the article or in comments prior to this is the quality and reliability of Home-Office comms raised.

    2. coconuthead

      Re: Not surprising for Aus

      It's a lottery which depends on the actual street in which you live, not even how expensive the area. As it happens, I won and get high speeds and solid reliability. Roughly 25% of houses are stuck with "fibre to the node", which is ADSL to a cabinet up to 250m down the street. The former Rudd government was going to run fibre into every house in major cities and towns, but that was sabotaged by the incoming Abbott government in 2014.

      I'm guessing MPs have been inundated with complaints, because yesterday the government reversed their policy of a decade and announced free fibre connections will be offered to that 25% of houses within 3 years.

      Meanwhile, the proceedings of a prominent judicial inquiry were interrupted today when the examining barrister's internet dropped out, leaving the Premier* of Victoria on the (virtual) stand hanging around waiting.

      * Like a Prime Minister, but for a state.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Not surprising for Aus

        Dunno what sort of copper network they have. Round here the neighbouring village got FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet) several years ago and I think they generally get about 30-75Mbps down, 8-18M up, which really ain't too bad. Fine for Zoom. Remember ADSL? Broadband over copper maxing out at 11Mbps? 28800? 1200/75 dial-up?

        Okay, FTTP is a lot faster, uploads particularly, but 250-1000Mbps+ is a pretty niche market for WFH.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Not surprising for Aus

          It's not usually speed that's important, rather reliability and latency. Copper lines don't have to be unreliable or laggy, but since a lot of them are old, the stereotype is that they fail much more often than fiber. It's basically true, as most times when new cabling is installed it's more modern and more fibery. Depending on the quality of service, it may be that the internet has fine speed, but it goes down when needed and/or adds enough latency that attempting a call means long periods of silence.

        2. coconuthead

          Re: Not surprising for Aus

          The legacy copper network was in terrible shape. It was only around 50 years old (I remember it being undergrounded in the 1970s in Melbourne) but at some point some kind of special jointing goo was used which is said to have damaged the wires over time. As it was assumed under the Rudd scheme it would all be pulled out for scrap copper, the minimal amount of patching was done and dropouts were common after rain.

          FTTN ("node" = your "cabinet") is typically around 25Mpbs here, but if your last mile of copper still has bad joints it will go out after rain.

          I have something different again, called "fibre to the kerb" ("FTTC" because America), where a newly laid copper run in the old conduit runs to fibre in front of my neighbour's house, and there are special modems each end of the copper. It's up to 100Mbps, and I get nearly that.

          It does make good sense to upgrade all the FTTN people, and those few still on repurposed cable TV technology, to 1Gbps FTTP first.

          Why was this dog's breakfast allowed to develop? Tony Abbott is on record as having said that the only use for fast internet into residences was for streaming movies. It took him two elections to get in. The first time around we got a hung parliament, and Gillard was able to form government by promising three independents that the FTTP scheme would go ahead. And so rural Armidale has rolled gold FTTP. The independent MPs mentioned teleworking for their rural electorates when explaining to the Australian electorate why Tony Abbott was not PM.

  6. Michael Hoffmann
    Meh

    No surprise there

    I don't think it was ever in doubt that those industries or businesses with a high dose of control-freak manglement can't wait to people back under their eyeballs.

    Short term it will work, because many will just be glad to continue to have jobs.

    But if/when things improve, now that employees have tasted that freedom, they'll jump ship as soon as they can. "Do you offer WFH" will become a standard question, I reckon. Micromanagers will answer no at their peril - because it will be seen as a warning sign that you *are* interviewing with a micromanager!

    1. Man inna barrel

      Re: No surprise there

      "I don't think it was ever in doubt that those industries or businesses with a high dose of control-freak manglement can't wait to people back under their eyeballs."

      ---

      I was very pleased to hear that a control-freak manager has left at my work. I presume all the design engineers working from home was beyond his micro-management capabilities.

      The message I have from proper managers at work is to keep working from home if you can. The production staff now have more room to work, so social distancing can be organised. We were actually getting pressed for space, so maybe all these people working from home has saved us an expensive move.

      I am still getting used to teleconferencing. I have been using emails for months, but this can be terribly slow if you need some kind of chit-chat. My boss reckons a lot of time is wasted on a normal office routine. He said he could not see the point of commuting between two computers. Working from home is here to stay.

  7. Tim99 Silver badge

    Middle-management needs people to manage?

    Senior management/CEO level may be more amenable. A senior Australian banker was quoted as saying that CIVID had made them realize that the business really didn’t need a large tower block in the CBD housing thousands of employees.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Working from will NOT last

    And any company that says it will is full of shit.

    Sure, tech companies want people working at home because it buoys sales - hardware, security, infrastructure.

    And, sure, everybody says it's working great. (They couldn't say it's a disaster because impact - shareholders, copycat behaviour etc)

    It works right now because people know people in the business. In 2yrs time when lots of those people have been cycled out of the business, nobody knows anyone, the culture crumbles, discipline fades, work plateaus.

    Welcome back to the office folks. The great/ awful thing about humans is change takes ages.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Working from will NOT last

      That may be a bit pessimistic.

      I can see a future after covid calms down where mainly WFH is the norm. Perhaps a day a week/fortnight/month people on a team have a physical get-together, not necessarily in the 'old' office (which has probably been sold for housing), but somewhere convenient - a suburban office hub (could be a big market here - in the pub?). Perhaps teams will be created based partly on home-addresses to simplify that? Obviously not for everyone, but a proportion. Replace the old office with something smaller suitable for hot-desking? A team on a new project meet physically for the first days, thrash out the plans, (with company paying travel time and accommodation?), and then off to WFH as individuals do their thing, with regular in-person catch-ups.

      That's feasible I think. And balances several conflicting requirements

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Working from will NOT last

        I'm not sure your idea will work. It sounds unpleasant to me, at least. In my opinion, the benefits of an office are for better coordination between team members, the benefits of working from home are convenience and extra time, and the benefits to trying to improvise one or both of those are few. Having a team in an office where people know where all the people are makes it easy to organically ask questions and meet in person, so if you have small hot-desking offices, you lose most of that. People won't necessarily know whether the people they want are there, it's not convenient to meet in a big open plan area, all that. Similarly, trying to create a team geographically by home address is a recipe for chaos (or a license to print money for someone who writes the software to do it for you).

        This solution also loses most of the benefits of working from home. If people work from home all the time, they don't have to be in a suburban area or near something specific, meaning it's easier to hire people from a greater distance and to allow existing employees to move without disrupting their careers. If people still have to work from home but they have to stay near to where the office used to be, that benefit is lost. In general, I think most companies should plan for each employee to primarily work from home or primarily work in an office rather than making them alternate between the two.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Working from will NOT last

      Very good point about knowing your colleagues, but a mixture of WfH and Office days could offer savings in office space and win points for being more family friendly.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Working from will NOT last

        You are correct there. If the half in, half out approach is ever implemented, it will probably be from an accountant's pen. I predict that it will be against the groans of most of the workers though. I don't agree about family friendly, as neither approach seems to be convenient from that perspective. Working from home when children are also at home seems to irritate those of my colleagues who have children, and it doesn't really help add flexibility if the parent needs to go help the children for a long period. This is especially true if the schedule for when to go to the office is firm, as in the parent doesn't have the choice to work from home on the day they will have the most obligations to help their children.

        My objections may be rooted in my dislike for a large, disorganized open plan office, especially one with hotdesking. I think, however, that my dislike is not quite unique. I can easily organize my affairs if I'm to be working from home forever or for a long period; I have done so successfully this time. Having no children helps with this, but even if I did have to set up a better environment for working while being near children, I could do it with enough time. I can also easily structure routines around going to an office. Having to do both and frequently switch between them would annoy me a lot.

    3. murrby

      Re: Working from will NOT last

      So you're saying that because I'm on the other side of the world from most of my colleagues, whom I've never met, I can't work well with them? That the team I've built and developed overseas who I haven't seen for over a year are ineffective?

      Lots of us have been managing remote workplaces for years and doing so successfully.

  9. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I am not sure if the results from an Australian survey would be replicated in other countries. Australia as a whole have had relatively low rates of the virus, just a few hotspots such as Melbourne.

    They haven't had the everybody back to work a few weeks ago, to be followed up with a please go back to working from home where possible because of a second wave that we are currently experiencing in the UK.

    Its much less risky to plan for continued WFH for the foreseeable future than risk getting staff into offices and then a second wave meaning you have to quickly enable WFH for them

  10. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Be realistic

    This is Aus.

    How many sheep-shearers and flying-doctors can work from home anyway?

    1. Robert Moore
      Pint

      Re: Be realistic

      Never trust a WFHsheep-shearer.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remote working is not exactly novel. I reckon those for whom in makes sense and who are open to it have already been doing it for a while (my own business included). The rest see it as a way to plod through while they have to.

  12. Draco
    Windows

    How does this remotely make sense?

    From the article: "Other more hands-on industries such as mining and retailing expect to have more staff telework in future."

    Am I really to infer that mining and retail are expecting more miners and sales clerks to be working out their own homes?

  13. DiSunny

    Where do we want to be in the future?

    There's a real opportunity now to reset from how we have been working for the last 50+ years to a vision of how we want to work and may have to work in 5 or 10 years time. Other factors such as population growth and future demands on transport infrastructure may mean that continuing to travel to CBDs isn't the best or most cost effective way forward.

    Instead the adoption of other workplace models such as wfh combined with workplace hubs in regions, e.g. the Queensland governments distributed work centres (DWC), may be needed. These not only reduce the demand on transport but spread the economic benefits of lunchtime shoppers etc to the regions.

    The hard part, changing behaviour, is already in progress so why not capitalise on it now.

  14. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    Ahhhh ... Working-from-Home.

    Remember when Yahoo! started the "trend" and reversed working-from-home decision?

    And not long after that IBM banned working-from-home too?

    There are still some people with the mindset that "working from home" is more of a "luxury" and can only be afforded exclusively to executives. And minions staff working-from-home is an "insult" (aka "a disturbance of the force").

    Staff angered as Charter prohibits working from home despite spread of coronavirus

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