Public servants are returning to home offices as their bosses tell them to avoid regular workplaces and lower the risk of infection amid the nation's growing Covid outbreaks.
It follows health orders from the NSW and Victorian governments telling people to work from home where possible, as the states try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Major government agencies including the Home Affairs Department and the Tax Office have told staff throughout NSW and Victoria to work from home if their roles don't require them to be in their regular workplaces.
New figures from the agency overseeing the public service's workforce show the nation's recent Covid outbreaks are moving people back into work-from-home arrangements.
About 12 per cent of public servants worked exclusively from home in the fortnight ending July 2, as the Sydney outbreak gathered pace and several states and territories had areas in lockdown.
By comparison, 5 per cent worked exclusively from home in the fortnight ending May 21, according to the Australian Public Service Commission.
Public sector workplace experts say working from home has emerged during the pandemic as a measure to keep employees safe during lockdowns. The main public service union has urged employers and the government to support the shift towards working from home.
UNSW Canberra researcher Sue Williamson said working from home, once predominantly a form of flexible working, was being recast as a workplace health and safety provision.
"Researchers have noted that working from home has been implemented to ensure employees' safety, and also to ensure continuity to economic activity," she said.
More staff at the Health Department, and the Agriculture Department, are working at home as the Sydney Covid outbreak grows and workers try to limit their potential exposure to the coronavirus.
The number of Health Department staff working remotely is steadily climbing, reaching 35 per cent on June 30, up from 29 per cent in late May.
At the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, the number of staff working only in the office was down in the fortnight to June 21 compared to the fortnight to May 10 (47 per cent down to 40 per cent) , and staff working exclusively from home increased (8 per cent up to 10 per cent).
Staff who were hybrid working rose from 44 per cent to 48 per cent at the department.
Community Public Sector Union national secretary Melissa Donnelly said during the latest lockdowns it expected that working from home arrangements would be implemented as widely as possible in Sydney and Melbourne to keep workers and the community safe.
"The CPSU will not hesitate to act and escalate issues if agencies don't institute working from home arrangements where they should," she said.
"Working from home has kept many employees safe during the pandemic, and in more recent lockdowns, but it has also changed the way we work.
"Working from home, even part time, is here to stay and we need all levels of employers and government to support this shift."
Nearly two-thirds of public servants worked from home at the height of the pandemic during 2020 in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.
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