NBN Co and CSIRO have issued a report on Australia’s big ‘work-from-home’ experiment. 

One of the most detailed data mapping exercises ever undertaken in Australia has been undertaken to understand the behaviours and habits that have formed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It found cities that experienced longer outbreaks during 2020 and early 2021 had a higher proportion of people continuing to work-from-home during COVID-free times compared to other locations.

Working from home was most persistent in Melbourne (28 per cent) and Sydney (27 per cent), which experienced the most sustained outbreaks over the previous year, compared to, for example, Perth (18 per cent). 

This suggests that, once established, working-from-home is likely to continue for many people for at least part of the week.

The research also found an increase in rates of working from home in regions around the fringes of the biggest cities, suggesting some workers are choosing to relocate further from their offices as they no longer have to commute every day. 

“The COVID 19 pandemic dramatically accelerated long standing digital transformation trends,” says Dr Andrew Reeson, economist from CSIRO’s Data61.

“Through this report we sought to examine how this shift to working and socialising online unfolded.“In this way, the report provides a snapshot of a unique moment in our history and gives an insight into some of the changes we may see emerge over the next 12 months.”

In addition to working from home, the analysis found widespread evidence of people increasing their online social activity, such as video calling, as physical distancing restrictions were introduced, with some of this persisting even as restrictions eased.

Online interactions were lowest in areas with a greater proportion of older residents, suggesting there may be an opportunity for digital literacy programs or technology provision to support those who currently miss out, though more fine-grained data would be required to confirm this.

The full report is accessible in PDF form.