Remote workers look to smash through the grass ceiling

Remote workers look to smash through the grass ceiling

Coronavirus
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The COVID-19 pandemic may have an unexpected silver lining for rural Australia, leading to increased acceptance for working remotely.

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Jo Hall, chief executive of Wool Producers Australia, says allowing more people to work remotely could be a big boost for rural Australia.

Jo Hall, chief executive of Wool Producers Australia, says allowing more people to work remotely could be a big boost for rural Australia.

RURAL leaders are hopeful the readjustments to work patterns caused by COVID-19 could lead to more senior level employment and business opportunities in country Australia.

The mainstream business community is now adapting to working from home and using video conferencing for communication, a system already widely used by those based in rural and regional areas to combat issues with isolation.

"In many ways in this current environment those of us that have worked remotely before have a bit of an advantage," said Wool Producers Australia chief executive Jo Hall, who has split her time between her home at Crookwell, in NSW's Southern Tablelands, and Wool Producers' head office in Canberra over the past nine years.

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"From a rural perspective you would hope that a potential silver lining of coronavirus is that more employers see that people are capable of working remotely," Ms Hall said.

"Getting more people working in rural areas makes sense on every front, you reduce the strain on the infrastructure in capital cities while you also stop the drop in population we are seeing in some of our rural regions."

Karen Inkster, co-owner of creative agency Aubrey and Areegra, works from her farm west of Warracknabeal in Victoria said the abilities fostered by working from home and working remotely were at a premium at present.

Once the crisis has ended she said she felt it could mean a permanent shift in work patterns, opening up more opportunities outside of major urban centres.

"The advantage of being where we are is that we have been doing this (working remotely) for years, we have been long-time digital champions while those from traditional workplaces are just getting used to it all," Ms Inkster said.

"It is very much a case of 'business as unusual' at present and I think it's a great chance for us in rural and regional areas to showcase our skills, given we are all on the same playing field, there is no way of just popping into a traditional shopfront and checking things so being isolated is not a disadvantage."

Nigel Crawley, director at agribusiness recruitment business Rimfire Resources, said the agricultural sector was well advanced in using remote communication tools but cautioned it would not be a matter of all jobs being able to be done from home all the time when restrictions are lifted.

"There's some good coming out of the adjustments to working environments we can see that some things can be done remotely and ag is certainly one of the more progressive sectors on that front," Mr Crawley said.

"However, it is not going to be perfect, both in terms of practical implications and a governance point of view," he said.

"We often find things that can be sorted out quickly and painlessly with a 20-minute meeting face to face can drag on for a long time when the parties are working remotely.

"There is also the issue of not being able to read non-verbal cues and things being misinterpreted, you've really got to find what works and what doesn't in terms of working remotely."

The story Remote workers look to smash through the grass ceiling first appeared on Farm Online.

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