Tuesday, 19 November 2013 00:50

Teleworking increases in popularity with SMEs

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Two in three Australian SMEs are now embracing teleworking, according to new research just released which also shows that businesses with teleworkers also felt less pressure from common SME ‘pain points’ and had a greater chance of more sales/work than usual in their short-term pipeline.

The research commissioned by online accounting software vendor, MYOB, found that the number of SMEs with employees who telework to some extent, is on the rise, and is now at 64%, up from 57% in March this year.

MYOB released the information to coincide with Telework Congress beginning tomorrow at The University of Melbourne, at which the company’s Chief Technology Officer, Simon Raik-Allen will speak.

According to Allen, teleworking is an increasingly attractive proposition as more business operators become comfortable with using advanced hardware, software and online services.

“They’re more comfortable with how technology transforms the way we work and how we communicate with each other. A greater number of operators are realising the bottom line benefits, and a wider range of cost-effective telework-enabling technologies are entering the marketplace.”

Released for National Telework Week, the results of MYOB’s survey of 1,022 Australian SME operators show 27% have staff who work partly from home and partly from the business premises, while 37% have staff who work mainly from a location other than on-premise. Staff of the remaining 38% work on-premise only.

According to MYOB, the research reveals that businesses with teleworkers felt less pressure from common SME pain points such as cash flow (30% versus 34% of non-teleworkers) and price margins and/or profitability (27% versus 37%), though they slightly felt more pressure from fuel prices (46% versus 45%). And, fuel prices was the top pressure point for SMEs overall, and has been since March 2011, while cash flow and price margins and/or profitability tied for second.

Raik-Allen says that the research shows teleworking can play a vital role in business success, providing benefits including increased efficiencies and productivity, reduced overheads and happier employees.

“It’s about implementing the right technology and learning to make the most of it to maximise your and your team's effectiveness. A well-structured and tailored teleworking program can ensure more businesses reap the rewards and attract and retain the best staff who can deliver from anywhere.”

The survey also asked SMEs without teleworkers why they didn’t leverage the now-commonplace practice, with two in five (41%) saying their business wasn’t suited to it because employees needed to be onsite at all times. Of the other respondents, over one in five (21%) said they didn’t know, one in five (20%) said they had other reasons, while close to one in 10 said it was too disruptive and another one in 10 said they haven’t assessed and managed the risks associated (8% each).

And, SMEs that take advantage of teleworking, were also asked about the locations their workers operated from, with one in two respondents saying ‘mainly on the road’ while two in five (39%) said ‘mainly from home’.

Of the two in three businesses with teleworkers, the following sectors were most likely to telework in some way:

 

Sector

Most likely to telework

Least likely to telework

Age group

Gen Y business operators – 74%

Baby Boomers & 65+ years – 60% each

Business size

Sole traders – 69%

Micro businesses – 55%

Business tenure

Start-up businesses – 72%

Established businesses – 59%

Gender

Male business operators – 68%

Female business operators – 59%

Industry

Construction & trades – 89%

Agribusiness – 26%

State

Western Australia – 68%

Queensland – 58%

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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