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Work trends in the Commonwealth: are they working from home in Australia, Canada and Malaysia now?

2.5 billion citizens live in the 54 Commonwealth countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. As the basketballs and beach volleyballs of Birmingham get set for Britain’s hosting of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, let’s take a look at what’s happening in the world of work in the Commonwealth too.

You might have had the chance to work overseas during your career – or have a hankering to slide your chair under a desk in the Central Business District of Adelaide one day as opposed to Ashby-de-la-Zouch. My year working in a publishing company overlooking Auckland Harbour in 1999 was certainly a highlight of my personal and professional life and since I was there to meet people and immerse myself in a new culture, working from home (in a basic apartment) would have been a drag. Are they hybrid working in other Commonwealth countries as much as we are in Britain?

There will no doubt be expat Malaysians, Aussies, Kiwis, Nigerians and Ghanaians amongst Posturite customers and I hope you’ll enjoy the international flavour of this report.

Melbourne businesses are offering employees incentives to return to the office

Melbourne city

‘The majority of businesses have introduced incentives to encourage employees back to the office’ concludes a May 2022 survey by the chamber of commerce for the most densely populated state in Australia, Victoria. These incentives sound attractive though not especially high in value; 22% are offering team drinks or meals, 10% offering free coffee, five per cent offering fitness or wellness sessions and five per cent subsidised transport. Interesting. In Melbourne and surrounds, how many days per week are workers spending at the office each week? 

  • 42% of employees = one to two days
  • 25% of employees = three to four days
  • 19% of employees = five days
  • 14% of employees = have not returned to the office

These figures are for May 2022, after restrictions were lifted on 22 April 2022.

“The survey results show the return to office has been a gradual process and a large percentage of businesses have adopted hybrid working arrangements” said Paul Guerra, Chief Executive at Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “What’s encouraging is that people are coming back to the office and embracing the social connection and enhanced collaboration and learning that in-person working offers.”

Question for the Australians amongst you: was Melbourne really briefly called ‘Batmania’? I find this hard to believe!

Looking at Australia as a whole, 46% of employed Australians worked from home one or more times a week in April 2022, reports official Australian Bureau of Statistics data. This is almost twice as many as March 2020, before COVID-19 restrictions commenced.

Malaysian employee enthusiasts for hybrid working

EY, the multinational professional services partnership formerly known as Ernst & Young is headquartered in London but has 700 locations in over 150 countries. The results of their survey of employees in a variety of businesses in Malaysia are valuable for us to see.

29% would like to work remotely full time on a permanent basis. 63% believe their productivity can be accurately measured irrespective of location. However a significant 72% believe that full-time remote working would impact their access to career opportunities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major shift in where we work, when we work and how we work” says Tan Lay Keng, EY Asean and Malaysia People Advisory Services Leader. “Employers that promote hybrid work arrangements and provide the flexibility for employees to work anywhere and anytime, are ahead of the curve. These employers are likely to have better employee attraction, retention and satisfaction in the long run, which could positively impact the business.”

Has organisational culture actually improved during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic? 54% of the surveyed workforce in Malaysia say it did.

Remote working in Vancouver

Vancouver

Many Canadians refer to working from home as ‘telework’. In April 2022, 19% of Canadians worked exclusively from home and just 6% per cent said they’re in a hybrid work arrangement, according to a survey by Statistics Canada. Looking back to the beginning of 2021, 32% of Canadian employees teleworked for most of their hours, compared with only 4% in 2016.

Are you an employer grappling with a great variety of differing opinions on working from home? It can’t be easy. As the Statistics Canada report states:

“One challenge for employers will be to accommodate the diversity of preferences for telework expressed by their employees. If workers’ preferences for telework do not fully align with those of employers, a new form of job mismatch might emerge once the pandemic is over. On the other hand, increased feasibility of telework will likely increase the pool of potential employers for job seekers, and vice-versa.”

Vancouverites who do venture into the city to work have that famously beautiful environment to enjoy on a lunchbreak or after work for exercise and recreation. Did you know Vancouver has the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world? Check out the 28km-long Seaside Greenway from the Vancouver Convention Centre to the Spanish Banks Park and dream. If you do decide to move to Vancouver however, get yourself a cat to see off the bears!

Demand for African tech professionals

19 African countries are in the Commonwealth and three of these – Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa – are high-growth developer talent hotspots in technology, according to a 2022 report by Google and Accenture. Nigeria’s developer community saw the biggest growth of any African country last year, with around 5,000 new professional developers and there are estimated to be 119,00 developers in South Africa and 58,000 in Kenya.

Remote work can of course lead to job gains for some. “The global shift to remote work created more employment opportunities across time zones and continents, which African developers tapped into” said Andy Volk from Google. Around 38% of African developers now work for at least one company based outside Africa.

The four-day working week - in Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria

It’s fascinating to read about one Nigerian business who has adopted a four-day working week as reported in the Lagos-based newspaper This Day Live. Let’s hear from Berger Paints Nigeria Plc’s Chairman, Abi Ayida, on how his business has blazed the trail in this regard:

“The intended outcome of this change is enhanced productivity from better rested people. Rest and recovery are key metrics of sustained performance. All our employees will remain on their full remuneration when working four days per week. Our customers and other external stakeholders would not be impacted in any way as we will be providing a full week of services. The reality will set in when the additional day of rest crystallizes for our people and they start to feel the impact.”

Whereas this working model is extremely rare currently in Nigeria, we’ll keep our eyes on developments both here in Britain and abroad on the four-day week. “I think this is unstoppable,” said Andrew Barnes, who founded the 4 Day Week global campaign. “We are using a method of working designed for the repetitive manufacturing industry in the 1920s and we are applying that to the 21st century. It makes no sense.” A trial in New Zealand increased worker productivity to 125% of previous levels and sick days halved.

Businesses beating wasted time stuck in city traffic

The same Nigerian company Berger Paints was an early advocate for virtual meetings too:

“In 2018, we made the decision to invest in fully interactive board and management meeting rooms with full virtual capabilities. By the time the Pandemic came along 15 months later we had already fully embraced virtual meetings with our external stakeholders who had that capability. This is probably not the immediate image that comes to mind when you think of a traditional paint manufacturer in Nigeria.”

There is apparently perennial traffic congestion in Lagos and Nigerians had been highly frustrated at the loss of personal and working time this had absorbed. If a one-hour visit to a client across town results in a ‘5 hour adventure’ on a bad traffic day, that’s an enormous productivity drain which can now sometimes be resolved now via remote meetings for businesses worldwide – and a reduction in polluting fuel usage too.

Which countries are in the Commonwealth?

You wouldn’t be alone in being a Brit who wasn’t quite sure which countries are and aren’t in the Commonwealth group of countries. Let’s take a look:

Africa

  • Botswana
  • Cameroon
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • The Kingdom of Eswatini
  • Losotho
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • South Africa
  • Uganda
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Zambia

Asia

  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei
  • Darussalam
  • India
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka

Caribbean and Americas

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Saint Lucia
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Vincent and The Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago

Europe

  • Cyprus
  • Malta
  • UK

Pacific

  • Australia
  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu

It’s not unfeasible of course that the list of countries in the Commonwealth group will change in the near future. Interesting times ahead.

My research on this article confirms that hybrid working is of course not a phenomenon within the United Kingdom alone – and employees in dozens of Commonwealth countries are loving the opportunity to work from home with a home-brewed cuppa for a proportion of their working week too.

 

Man working in tropical back yard

PS The fella above needs to use a laptop stand to improve his posture...

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