Working from Home an ‘overwhelmingly positive experience’ for APS employees according to new research

Associate Professor Linda Colley, School of Business and Law, CQUniversity, and Dr Sue Williamson, School of Business, UNSW Canberra — authors of a new research report, ‘Working during the Pandemic: From resistance to revolution?’.

A new research report has found that the working from home experience of Australian Public Service (APS) employees, compelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been overwhelmingly positive, realising benefits and dispelling some long-held concerns.

The recently published ‘Working during the Pandemic: From resistance to revolution?‘ report, written by Associate Professor Linda Colley, CQUniversity, and Dr Sue Williamson, UNSW Canberra, was prepared by UNSW Canberra Public Service Research Group and CQUniversity.

Over 6,000 APS respondents participated in a survey which was run in late June 2020. It aimed to capture the experiences of those working from home, as well as the attitudes, perceptions and experience of those not working from home.

The authors worked with the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) to develop the survey instrument, and the CPSU distributed the survey to their mailing list on the authors’ behalf. The sample was broadly representative of the APS workforce in terms of ethnicity, indigeneity, and ongoing tenure. It included about 20% non-union members and approximately 25% managers, across a broad range of occupations and agencies.

Key findings

The researchers found that managers were highly supportive of working from home and that over 90% believed that their teams’ productivity was the same or even higher when working from home.

They found that nearly two-thirds of employees felt that they got more work done than when at the office. Nearly two-thirds felt that they had more autonomy, and employees also enjoyed the personal benefits, including less commuting time, more time with family and for caring responsibilities.

In the future, over two-thirds wanted to continue working from home on a regular basis for some of their hours. The key reasons for this included the ability to manage work and caring responsibilities, and the time for themselves and family.

From a managerial perspective, nearly two-thirds of managers indicated they would be more supportive of working from home in the future but interestingly, while managers are supportive, organisational culture may be lagging.

Survey limitations

A limitation to the survey was a selection bias towards those working from home, resulting in an under-representation of those who did not work from home. While this reduced the number of responses to the authors’ questions about reasons people did not work from home, it did not diminish the responses from those who did.

A copy of the full report is available on the UNSW Canberra website.