How Australian SMBs can adapt to the new normal of remote work
There is currently a rapid revolution in business practices across Australia that every business owner should know and follow if they want to survive the harsh competition in today’s business environment. The practice of remote work has been around for a while, but never at the large and growing scale we see in Australia right now, thanks to the pandemic.
This article offers a brief but comprehensive overview of the Australian remote work landscape and explains why a business is unlikely to compete favourably without adapting remote work now or in the future. You’ll learn the competitive advantages remote work offers and how to deploy a successful remote workforce suitable for your business. By studying certain digital & technological challenges, and the possible or best solutions to them, business owners will better position themselves to maximize the benefits of migrating partly or wholly to the cloud.
History and Overview of the Remote Work Landscape in Australia
It's important to differentiate two concepts before proceeding from here: Remote Work and Distributed Work.
Remote Work is a system where the majority of staff work on-site while the rest work from home. Majority of organisations fall in this category.
Distributed Work on the other hand denotes a work environment where a majority of employees work from home, with the rest working on-site. Companies like Askwonder have over 5000 analysts working remotely from different countries.
Remote work existed long before the internet. Prior to the industrial age, people set up shops in their homes to create and sell all kinds of craft. The industrial revolution gave rise to downtown offices as businesses seek to automate processes and build factories, which required the presence of on-site skilled labour. Rapid advances in technology soon ushered in the Information age. More people gained access to computers and connectivity to the world wide web. And as a lot of business processes migrated to the screen and could be transmitted across a network of devices, it didn't take long for businesses to realize that not all operational procedures could be restricted to the four walls of an office building.
Remote work has evolved over time from when the idea was rejected by most employers to now being a global norm.
Contrary to what most managers believed about remote work making employees negligent and less productive, a study found that employees working remotely are more productive than their on-site counterparts.
The reason distributed work was not adopted widely was not due to operational disadvantage or a lack of supportive systems, but as a result of human reluctance to leave the unusual, or myths that developed when some businesses could not effectively deploy remote work due to poor planning or other reasons.
Some companies realized the advantages and trends of remote work long before Covid. Many studies have been conducted across the world relating to remote work, and you’d be surprised at what some of the conclusions arrived at.
Statistical Facts About Remote Work in Australia
Before the pandemic, a study found that only 13% of the global workforce worked from home all the time. Today, that number has quadrupled to 88% of organizations requiring or recommending that their employees work remotely.
Many Australian businesses are unlikely to go remote full time, but we can expect to see a larger proportion of remote workers and the trend will continue even post-covid. Thus for any business, every aspect of its operation that can be made remote is a possibility to cut costs and increase efficiency.
47% of business owners in Australia would prefer to work remotely more often.
45% of workers believe remote work unlocks more free time.
Between 50 – 90% of small businesses in different regions of Australia already worked remotely pre-pandemic.
With about half of Australia's small businesses intending to make remote work permanent, those not deploying are at risk of losing the competition.
Since April this year, some 1.6 million Australians were working remotely;
In a recent survey, 75% of Australian office employees say covid-19 has permanently changed their work habits.
A survey of Australia's SMBs found that small-and-medium business owners agree that technology is very important for most SMB businesses. Smart technology supported by reliable connectivity such as 5G and cybersecurity will be critical for SMBs over the next three years. The study also found that fast reliable internet is a must for 98% of SMBs, and network speed, reliability, and cybersecurity present a major technology challenge for SMBs. We see greater importance placed on 5G, reliability, and security.
As long as you get a job done, it doesn't really matter where you do it.
Advantages of Working Remotely
Remote work allows you to live your work. Being a first-mover should give you an edge over the competition as you get to run into the obstacles earlier and also find the solutions earlier. A half-hearted or wait-and-see approach isn't the way to go about it. Several tech giants like
Twitter, Atlassian, Liveperson, and Quora have announced their intentions to make remote work permanent post-pandemic for some employees.
It’s Cost-Effective: Remote work helps both employees and businesses save on cost. Companies save millions of dollars in both real estate and non-real estate costs due to telecommuting. Businesses save on rent, office equipment, cleaning services, taxes, food, and much more. Employees save on transportation cost, professional outfit, coffee and lunches which are usually more expensive outdoors.
Access to talent globally: Remote work allows you to hire talents from anywhere in the world. Many Australians are working for global tech giants like Google from their homes in Australia.
Greater Productivity: This boils down mainly to your employees. Working remotely brings a lot of convenience. Employees won't have to spend minutes or hours in traffic to and from work, and this reduces the level of stress. They also get to do work faster as they deal with fewer distractions. Because employees carry their work home and can do it any time of day, they accomplish more with less stress.
Better Collaboration and Team Meeting: Different cloud-based solutions make it easier for staff to streamline operations in a collaborative workspace such as Google Spreadsheet and Google Docs. You can also have more effective meetings by planning upfront.
Remote Work Prevents Office Politics: Spending less time with people in-person leads to fewer misunderstandings.
Better Employee Health: Employees working remotely can easily find time for exercise and other leisure activities that improve overall health.
Remote Work is More Environmentally Friendly: Working from home reduces your carbon footprint by minimizing how frequently you travel to work by car.
Offers Competitive Advantage: A business is more likely to reduce prices or charges when there’s a reduction in fixed and variable costs for whatever reason including telecommuting. And lower prices naturally attract customers of your competitors.
Critical Technologies for Remote Work
You need the following technologies to successfully deploy a remote workforce.
Reliable Internet Connection (preferably 5G): A high-speed and stable internet connectivity is the backbone of remote work. Business processes won't be smooth without it.
VPN: This is for security. It establishes a secure communication channel in the world wide web.
VoIP: Helps minimize communication costs while giving employees access to their office phone calls and messages, teleconferences etc.
eFax: For electronic signatures by clients or staff. A good provider of such a service in Australia is eFax
Network Security: There are many tools to help with security. In most cases, the level of security you get depends on the amount you are willing to spend.
Malware Protection: Antivirus and similar programs will help keep your computer safe from hackers and scammers
Collaborative Tech Tools: Google spreadsheet is a good example of a collaborative technology tool. Small businesses may be able to use it for free. You can read more about the less critical tech requirements here.
Technology Challenges of Remote Work for SMBs
With ongoing deployment of 5G broadband network across Australia, the problem of network coverage and reliability will soon end. Cloud-based solutions would be faster and far cheaper. Businesses can store, download or transfer large files within a short time.
Securing your remote work activity from hackers and scammers is no easy feat. There are many cloud-based solutions available, but not all can guarantee a high level of protection. Using a VPN should create a secure communications channel on the internet. Also, using anti malware and other security authentication processes would provide extra security. If you are transferring sensitive files through emails or fax, consider using a Digital Signature to secure the documents before transferring them.
The Need to Sign Documents
If your business requires the signature of customers, clients, or staff on certain documents, it is best to use an online fax solution. Such solutions use electronic signatures instead of the traditional paper signature. You can sign and send fax online to any fax machine in Australia. You could also get your customers to sign documents on their phone, tablet, or laptops within minutes and send them back to you. It is also important that every third-party cloud-based technology you use should be connected via a strong and reliable network.
eFax provides this service aimed at helping Australian businesses with a secure and reliable solution to process thousands of documents without the need for paper or a fax machine. NBN is expected to provide 5G coverage for over 95% of Australians. That's good news for eFax users. Benefit from deeper penetration by eFax, and a smooth transition to NBN allows you to keep existing NBN numbers.
eFax is NBN compatible making it future proof for coming technology
Smooth transition to NBN allows you to keep existing NBN number
Helping Australian business with a secure and reliable solution
Get started with eFax by starting a 30-day free trial or calling 1800 283 361.