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Canberra businesses grow receptive to teleworking, but challenges remain

Employers and workers have become increasingly receptive to the idea of teleworking in Canberra, a new study has shown.

But obstacles have persisted in the push to encourage more people to work from home, an analyst behind the NBN-commissioned survey said.

The Telesyte Australian Digital Workplace Study found 56 per cent of surveyed organisations nationally allowed employees to work from home, while 84 per cent had systems in place that allowed staff to work remotely.

IT and marketing professionals led the charge on remote working, followed by sales representatives and accountants.

The survey was released as debate continued over the Nationals' push to decentralise parts of the public service from Canberra and state capitals to regional centres.

The Australian Public Service Commission encouraged remote working in principle, but full-time telecommuting was not considered to be an alternative to agency decentralisation.

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Telesyte analyst Foad Fadaghi said many organisations saw telecommuting as a way of boosting productivity.

"As people are living further away from their workplace, real estate prices close to metro areas have skyrocketed, there's an increased need for transportation, and that time buys into the day," he said.

"There's also the possibility of reducing operational costs as well, and that includes real estate, work stations and as people become more mobile, offices have more flexible desk scenarios."

Mr Fadaghi said a business or government agency's willingness to allow more flexible working arrangements was dependent on the regulation or facilities available.

"There are issues like IT security and there have been considerations in the past that said that maybe who worked outside the office were overlooked for management positions," he said.

"It is just as important for an organisation to develop a mobile working culture that empowers the employee but also trusts the employee to do the right thing."

Curtin communications manager Jemma Mrdak recently negotiated with her employer to spend one Monday each fortnight working from home.

The arrangement gave her time to work on her side project, a fashion and lifestyle blog.

"At first it was quite overwhelming; I piled a lot on my plate on that first day at home, but now I think I've managed to work out how to spend my time wisely," she said.

"Normally I would do all of my personal work with the business and blog on weekends, which means I couldn't really have a life."

The survey showed 28 per cent of employees polled would be willing to forgo up to 5 per cent of their pay in exchange for more flexible working arrangements.

About 35 per cent of respondents to the survey said they preferred the five-day-a-week, business hours arrangement of working in an office, with the remainder preferring some variation on the traditional working week.