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Working from home: Then and now

Office? Where we’re going, we don’t need an office. Employees in Australia are taking their work home on the high speed internet highway.

Getting to work for many Australians is now as easy as opening a laptop and connecting to their home wi-fi.

The nbn™ network is bringing a new era of connectivity and high speed internet to Australians all around the country and it’s changing the way businesses operate.

It’s knocking down the traditions of a working day by empowering employees to work efficiently and quickly from outside the office, while remaining in constant connection with fellow employees.

According to the ABS, 5.15 million Australians worked from home at some point in 2015. By comparison, in the year 2000, that figure was just 1.8 million. It’s a rise from 20% to 44% of the workforce.

The growth in the number of people working from home is driven by factors such as greater accessibility of fast broadband, in combination with the barriers on a range of other key factors dropping.

And when we look at the then and now of working from home, it’s clear to see why these obstacles are starting to look less intimidating. 

Conducting meetings

Then: Few businesses can get by without meetings. Whether it’s an internal catch-up, or discussion with an external company or individual, people need to connect. Before high speed internet, this usually required being in the same room. You could potentially chat on the phone, but if you wanted to show off a product, talk through a presentation or simply read their body language, there was no alternative.

Now: Using high-definition video conferencing through services, you can now conduct meetings with as many people as you like, in as many locations as you like, with relative ease. With the right plan, the ability to screen share or send large files to all members of the conversation, and see their faces, creates the sensation of being in the same room. It’s also easy to record meetings for later reflection.

Access to equipment and servers

Then: Bulky computers, printers, scanners, faxes and cameras were the kinds of expensive office equipment many people simply couldn’t afford or fit into the family home not too long ago. If a large part of your role involved accessing these resources and sharing the results with other staff members, you needed to be in an office.

Now: Improvements in technology have made such devices smaller and more affordable, while access to fast broadband enables you to easily transfer files to and from the work server as required. In many cases it can all be done from a smartphone, which can sit in your pocket connected to the entire world.


Then: Even a small business might employ a range of people with skills that contribute to the company in complementary ways. For example, a product designer, production manager and sales staff would need to be in constant communication to ensure an efficient way forward for the business. In the past, that required regular seating in close proximity.

Now: Connecting to cloud-based, team-orientated solutions like Google Sheets allows employees to interact with and communicate through important documents in real-time. Meanwhile, internal message services like Slack ensure a secure channel for real-time conversations as you go. Almost no file is too big, and multiple people can interact in the same location at the same time.

Having employees

Then: Let’s look at life through an employer’s eyes for a moment. It wasn’t that long ago where having an employee meant needing physical resources. You needed to find them a desk, a computer, a phone-line, power, lighting, heating or air-conditioning, a comfortable chair and more. And that’s not even looking into how an extra body might impact broader company-wide infrastructure like a kitchen, toilets, first aid and a water-cooler (of course).

Now: By working from home, an employee might remove many, even a majority of these kinds of costs away from the employer, depending on your business. If they’ve worked from home before, they probably already own their own computer, desk and chair. It’s the trade-off for flexibility in working hours and avoiding the commute. And thanks to high-speed internet, an employer can still stay in an instant feedback-loop with the employee through the whole day.

The start-up

Then: If you wanted to start up your own company not that long ago, it might have begun with a big risk - real estate. From a place to house your equipment, to a front-facing storefront, businesses dealt in something physical, and that needed to be stored and sold from bricks and mortar.

Now: A whole new world has opened up for start-ups, with digital products and remote warehouse management allowing businesses of all sizes to operate out of a home. Coordinating sales, organising deliveries and transferring money all across the globe is but a click away thanks to massive global distributors like Amazon, iTunes and Shopify. Stability and accessibility in connecting with such services is the linchpin for thousands of Australian work-from-home start-ups.

The future is working from home

For some, the need to be in a human environment talking with colleagues is vital to their mental wellbeing. For others, though, the ability to spend more time with their kids and to avoid hours in transport is more important.

Wherever you sit on this spectrum, it’s clear more people could be working from home into the future.

In fact, some estimates see 63% growth in work from home employees in the next five years.

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