Call for more office freedom
A parliamentary committee looking at public sector decentralisation has heard staff should be able to work from wherever they want.
The Blue Mountains Living Lab has put forth an “anywhere work” proposal to the federal parliament's inquiry into plans to force public service departments and agencies to move to regional locations.
The idea is similar to policies in the US that let government employees access telework provisions at any time - unless security, work systems or performance requirements mean they must be based in a designated office.
The Blue Mountains group says public sector managers should have to explain why employees cannot work from home or other locations.
The submission says it should be possible for employees to work from locations other than an official department office, such as their homes or shared workspaces.
“With rapid growth of two-income and single parent families, there is an increasing demand for flexible work options that not only vary hours worked, but which also allow people to work closer to where they live, in order to reduce the time, stress and cost of long commutes to work, particularly negatively impacting women with young children,” the submission said.
“Individual employees would be assessed on their suitability for remote working according to the operational requirements of their job, their capability and performance history, and agreed outcomes and deliverables for their particular roles and responsibilities.”
The proponents concede that managers would have to change some work practices through new training and procedures.
“Such work arrangements support the required shift in managerial practice to managing for outcomes, not time at the desk, otherwise known as 'presenteeism', in terms of performance assessment.”
The group says current plans to shunt workers out to regional centres could be enhanced by setting up Australian government hubs in regional centres that feature video conference facilities for use by public servants.
The technology could also be made available to hire for local businesses and community groups, and even serve as co-working hubs for private businesses and not-for-profits.
“If regional cities are to compete in the innovation stakes, they also need support for the sort of clustering that is being supported by government in our capital cities, although on a smaller scale,” the submission said.
Queensland's Central Highlands Regional Council, with a population of 30,000 spread over thirteen communities, says it stands ready to host anyone the federal government wants to send.
The council says it is well placed to receive organisations like the Office for Northern Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, Austrade, AusIndustry and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The parliamentary committee recently released a discussion paper saying it would do more to consider the fears of public servants and their families about forced moves to unappealing regional towns.