That one per cent of respondents is made up of freelance service operators (sole traders) and those in the services industry, both groups more likely to work remotely or from home and therefore already reliant on mobile technology.
But while most businesses don’t see mobility as impacting them (yet), the mobile workforce is well and truly here. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of employed people who work from home has dramatically increased from 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the labour force in 15 years, with 3.5 million Australians working from home. Of those working from home, 1.3 million choose to do it to have a rent-free office, to take advantage of flexible workplace arrangements, for childcare reasons or to spend more time with family.
For business owners who choose to work remotely – whether that’s from home, a co-working space, a client’s office or the local café – there is also the ability to control your own schedule, save time and money on commuting, and tax benefits including home office space, technology and utilities.
A recent Deloitte report found that, on average, people were able to complete 0.6 hours more work each week, thanks to the productivity benefits of mobile devices, with 29 per cent finding they can comfortably work from home if necessary. Yet, nearly 15 per cent of people also said that they would work fewer hours if they couldn’t work remotely.
While not every business owner can or wants to work from home, the benefits of a remote working team are real. Telecommuting allows collaboration between people in different time zones, opens a wider talent pool – businesses aren’t restricted to hiring locally ‑ and means businesses have fewer overheads. Plus, a 2015 Connect Solutions remote collaborative worker survey found that 44 per cent of remote workers reported having a more positive attitude and 53 per cent reported less stress than those in a traditional office.
Of course, remote work isn’t perfect. The challenges lie in ensuring remote workers are fully engaged, that communication is as immediate and seamless as possible (for example, by using the cloud to work on the same version of documents in real-time) and that company culture remains strong.
The right technology can certainly make this easier on businesses – such as collaborating on documents in the cloud with Box, using Skype for Business to chair videoconferences with colleagues and clients, and updating Yammer for internal communications and social networking.
With commutes getting longer as the major cities continue their suburban sprawl, and more Australians wanting increased workplace flexibility to juggle family commitments without the tyranny of distance, telecommuting and mobile technology may become a priority for more businesses sooner than they might think.
This survey is based on the Telstra Loop community of small and medium businesses across Australia. This community is open to small businesses customers of Telstra, enabling them to provide feedback to Telstra and improve products and services. If you are a small or medium business, join this community by visiting www.telstraloop.com.au