Public servants were more productive, had more autonomy and found personal benefits when working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, survey findings reveal.
It comes as the Public Service Commission on Tuesday published a circular directing agency heads to make arrangements for all employees to return to the office.
A report written by UNSW Canberra's Dr Sue Williamson and CQUniversity's Associate Professor Linda Colley, outlines the findings of a survey of 6000 people working in the Australian Public Service, including nearly 1400 managers.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents felt they had more autonomy over their work when working at home.
About the same proportion, 64.3 per cent, felt they got more work done than when at the office. More women than men reported getting more done at home.
"Women with children aged from five to 17 years old, in particular, also reported being more productive working from home," Dr Williamson said.
"This is a surprising result and contrary to emerging research."
A third of people surveyed said they felt the were able to undertake more complex work at home.
The findings show that men and women were mostly better able to combine work and caring responsibilities, with 82 per cent of respondents reporting they had more time for themselves and families.
But there were some downsides to the work-at-home experiment.
Almost 30 per cent of the people surveyed said they worked longer hours during the pandemic, some working outside their usual hours by choice while others felt obliged due to managers expectations or household obligations.
One quarter of those surveyed said they were less able to contact or collaborate with colleagues or mentor or coach others.
One fifth said they were less able to maintain professional networks or access opportunities such as new projects or tasks.
The sudden change in working arrangements largely dispelled concerns among managers, with 90 per cent of managers surveyed reporting their teams were at least as productive if not more productive when working from home.
"Almost two-thirds of managers are more supportive of employees working from home in the future," Associate Professor Colley said.
"This is good, as the majority of respondents want to continue working from home for some days of the week."
The report includes tips for APS managers, such as ensuring clear communication about work expectations, providing opportunities for professional development and developing clear policies to allow all employees to be able to work from home if operational requirements allow.