Office. Afr. 070227. Generics. Pic by Michel O Sullivan. Afr First Use. Pic shows generic office worker. Use for office, work, employment, career, job, computer. Photographer Michel O Sullivan/MAO SPECIALX 62061back; yellow shirtThe federal government should mandate rules allowing public servants to work from anywhere at any time, a parliamentary committee considering regional decentralisation moves has been told.
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An “anywhere work” proposal, put forward by a Blue Mountains-based community organisation, would follow United States government rules which allow federal employees to access telework provisions at any time – unless security, work systems or performance reasons require them to be based full time in a designated office.

The Blue Mountains Living Lab has told the federal parliament’s inquiry into the government’s plans to force public service departments and agencies to move from Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne to regional locations as soon as 2018 that managers should have to explain why employees can’t work from home or other locations by arrangement.

Citing Department of Communications and the Arts moves toward new flexible work policies, the submission says consultation with staff and public sector unions should result in the ability for employees to work from locations other than a department office, including their home or shared workspace.

“With rapid growth of two-income and single parent families, there is an increasing demand for flexible work options that not only vary hours worked, but which also allow people to work closer to where they live, in order to reduce the time, stress and cost of long commutes to work, particularly negatively impacting women with young children,” the submission said.

“Individual employees would be assessed on their suitability for remote working according to the operational requirements of their job, their capability and performance history, and agreed outcomes and deliverables for their particular roles and responsibilities.”

The submission says the plan would require managers to change some work practices through new training and procedures.

“Such work arrangements support the required shift in managerial practice to managing for outcomes, not time at the desk, otherwise known as ‘presenteeism’, in terms of performance assessment.”

The group, which advocates citizen-led innovation across all sections of n society and the economy, also call for n government hubs to be established in selected regional centres, including video conference facilities for use by public servants.

The technology could be made available for hire by local businesses and community groups, and co-working hubs for private businesses and not-for-profits could be located nearby.

“If regional cities are to compete in the innovation stakes, they also need support for the sort of clustering that is being supported by government in our capital cities, although on a smaller scale,” the submission said.

Queensland’s Central Highlands Regional Council, which includes 30,000 people in thirteen communities, has told the committee it stands ready to host a federal government department of agency.

The council has offered a wish-list of five organisations, including the Office for Northern , Meat and Livestock , Austrade, AusIndustry and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

It said Emerald, 300km west of Rockhampton, is a successful example of state government decentralisation which could be replicated on a federal level.

“The Central Highlands provides numerous excellent examples of successful government decentralisation and we would offer our location as a strong candidate to provide these services,” it said.

In a discussion paper released last week, the committee said it would consider the fears of public servants and their families about forced moves to unappealing regional towns.

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