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Hard at home: How Australian businesses can boost the productivity of their remote workforces

By Debra Sutton | |7 minute read

Flexible working is here to stay, and organisations that have embraced it should ensure their remote and hybrid workers have the tools they need to perform at their peak.

It’s now almost four years since COVID-19 turned economies and societies upside down, around the world. While protracted lockdowns, COVID-19 tracking applications and social distancing are now receding into memory, some pandemic-era practices remain, most notably remote working.

Australians took to the practice with alacrity back in 2020, when sweeping restrictions forced businesses of all stripes to send their employees home with laptops and login instructions.


The number of digital technologies that either popped up or became standard in order to enable the safe and effective remote work movement was astounding, and many of those technologies have become commonplace. And there was no shortage of workers wishing to continue to accomplish their goals away from the office. Some 29 per cent of Australian adults worked remotely in some capacity in 2022, according to the results of Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker survey published in April 2023.

Settling on the new norm

While some large companies are now strongly encouraging their workers to return to the office, their requests and demands are meeting with fierce resistance.

Commonwealth Bank, for example, is headed for the Fair Work Commission after its employees elected to push back against an edict requiring them to spend at least half their working week in the office, from July 2023.

Around the same time, insurance giant IAG found itself embroiled in another form of remote-working controversy. In August 2023, it was revealed the company had used keystroke monitoring technology to determine that remote employee Suzie Cheikho was not presenting for work and performing work as required. When the case hit the headlines – after Cheikho appealed her dismissal, unsuccessfully, before the Fair Work Commission – it reopened debate about the pros and cons of trusting remote workers to put in the requisite effort while working offsite.

Getting on with the job

Happily, most organisations have had rather better experiences with remote working than these two financial services giants.

In the main, businesses have learnt that it’s no longer necessary to have everyone toiling under the watchful eye of a supervisor at all times. People can get on with the job, and operations can run smoothly, regardless of whether workers are situated in Central Sydney or at home somewhere on the Central Coast.

And, since so much work is done digitally, it’s possible to use digital measures to empower workers to do their best work and to ensure productivity and determine whether goals are being met.

As an added bonus, these measures can also provide unprecedented visibility into how employees are getting work done and enable leaders to identify barriers to productivity that are holding their teams back.

Tackling technology overload

Ironically, technology overload is chief among these barriers, in many instances.

It’s not uncommon to see companies that are committed to remote work investing in dozens, even hundreds, of different enterprise applications to enable their teams to operate more efficiently.

While these applications were onboarded with the very best intentions, the result of having to navigate all of these disparate applications is often digital direction. Rather than making it simpler and easier for employees to get the job done, a surfeit of complex tools and technologies can lead to “software paralysis”.

Typically, employees who’ve reached this state will actively avoid the plethora of programs and platforms deployed for their use, resorting instead to the legacy processes and practices with which they’re familiar and comfortable. This will actually have a negative effect on productivity and employee engagement.

Helping employees do their best work

Fortunately, there is a solution to this high-tech conundrum. A digital adoption platform (DAP) that guides employees right on their screens across applications and workflows equipped with automation and AI while providing leadership with data analytics to help them understand usage to continuously improve the user experience and maximise their software investments.

An organisation might, for example, see that its employees are spending significant periods of time attempting to update data within a complicated CRM platform, and introducing errors as they go.

Armed with that knowledge, the organisation might choose to remove the barriers by simplifying the user journey – adding on-screen guidance to support employees interacting with the platform, without interrupting their flow of work. They could then see if this guidance is actually working and prevent inaccurate data from permeating across the business.

Done properly, the result should be a win-win: a simpler and smoother user experience for employees and increased productivity for the organisation.

One large consumer goods company estimates they saw over 550,000 productivity hours given back to the business using a DAP. The productivity gains and digital employee experience improvements of using a DAP to boost employee efficiency while providing a better user experience is certainly tangible, and businesses across industries would be wise to follow suit.

Making the most of remote and hybrid working

In 2023, remote and hybrid working appears to be well and truly here to stay. Rather than arguing its merits, Australian businesses should be focused on finding ways to make it work best for both individual employees and organisations.

Deploying technology that’s been proven to help workers do their jobs more easily and efficiently is an excellent place to start.

Debra Sutton is the ANZ regional vice-president and general manager at WalkMe.


Hybrid working

In a hybrid work environment, individuals are allowed to work from a different location occasionally but are still required to come into the office at least once a week. With the phrase "hybrid workplace," which denotes an office that may accommodate interactions between in-person and remote workers, "hybrid work" can also refer to a physical location.

Remote working

Professionals can use remote work as a working method to do business away from a regular office setting. It is predicated on the idea that work need not be carried out in a certain location to be successful.


The term "workforce" or "labour force" refers to the group of people who are either employed or unemployed.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.