28 April 2021

A new report prepared by Deloitte Access Economics has found that commuter regions like the Illawarra stand to significantly benefit from post-COVID hybrid work models which, according to both employees and bosses, are here to stay.

The report The Decentralisation of work and the Illawarra – practical insights for business was prepared for Illawarra First, the peak business leadership forum for the region, comprising its top CEOs and decision makers, that works to advance the regional economy using rigorous evidence.

The report is based on surveys of employees that live in the Illawarra region and either commute the 90 minutes each way to Greater Sydney or work locally. It also canvasses the views of employers from both Sydney and the Illawarra.

The research has found that about 11,900 Illawarra residents could work from home an additional 1.3 days per week in the future – if they were enabled to do so.

The research also confirms that the adoption of remote working practices is not just a temporary phenomenon. Instead, a hybrid model - where employees will work some days in the office and some days remotely - is the preferred future model of work for ‘white collar’ sectors such as finance, insurance and other professional and managerial services.

If implemented effectively, a hybrid work model can lead to productivity gains, as an improved work-life balance promotes better employee engagement. For commuting employees, the time savings translate to more time working (53 minutes per day on average), more time for household chores (34 minutes) and more time with family (33 minutes). Deloitte Access Economics survey analysis found that employers can expect an uplift of between 16 and 22% in productivity under a hybrid working scenario.

The changes to office space needs may also translate to important cost savings for business including opportunities for Sydney employers to set up satellite offices in less expensive regional areas.

Business Illawarra Executive Director, Adam Zarth, said that the pandemic had disrupted work practices and commuting patterns in a lasting way, and will benefit regional economies with a high commuting workforce like the Illawarra (25% of residents), Central Coast (31%) and the Hunter Valley excluding Newcastle (27%).

“Given that before the pandemic there were more than 25,000 people commuting to the Greater Sydney region for work daily, the Illawarra region is absolutely positioned to benefit from the accelerated shift to remote working,” said Mr Zarth.

“The workforce analysis by Deloitte Access Economics reveals that up to 38% of the current local workforce could work entirely remotely, which would create major economic benefits for the Illawarra, including at least $4.1 million in additional local spending per year.”

“To make the most of this shift, businesses must review existing work practices and consider how a hybrid model of work can meet their business needs. The report includes a number of recommendations for employers to effectively adapt to and maximise the benefits of hybrid work practices.”

“While the shift to remote work presents challenges, this report provides a sound toolkit on how employers and other interested stakeholders can maximise the benefits of a hybrid work model. We encourage all concerned to consult the report and engage with us on ensuring that the Illawarra economy and community can reap the rewards of this important opportunity,” said Mr Zarth.

The official launch of the report will take place at an Illawarra First business event on 23 April 2021 in Wollongong.