Can Remote Work Keep Millennials In Rural Australia?

In comparison to Australia’s previous workforce generations, it is not exactly a secret that Millennials are programmed differently.

Most have taken their parents advice literally - work smarter, not harder.

Armed with the very best of what the digital age has to offer - they have weaponized social media, fast access to free information, and demand a change in the way employment in Australia works for them.

Perhaps the silver lining in 2020’s COVID-19 Pandemic has been flexibility.

Previously denied (or perhaps not even considered) by the average Australian workplace, working from home has rapidly become the “new normal”.

While it is unlikely that we will see a new wave of digital nomads, the glimmer of hope that remote employment presents to many Australians cannot be ignored - particularly those that don’t reside in of Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne.

Living in rural or regional Australia has one giant drawcard for Millennials that the life in the city does not - affordability.

Is saving $500,000 on a mortgage worth driving an hour (or more) to work?

It would appear to be that way. While baby boomers experienced bygone luxurious such as free education and affordable housing, Australia’s younger generations are doing their best to try to keep up.

However, there is one major point of difference that doubles as Generation Y’s ace card - the internet.

Growing up with iPhones, Facebook and Google, Millennials are arguably the best equipped to work from home. Previously limited to industries linked to Computing and Information Technologies, in 2020 we have jobs on offer that didn’t even exist ten years ago.

For Social Media Specialists, Virtual Assistants, and User Experience Designers - business is booming in cyberspace. While thousands of businesses were forced to adapt virtually overnight in order to survive, is there a place for regional Australians to ride the wave too?

If you live in the country, jobs are scarce - and competition is often tough. Often, it also means sacrificing the industry you are experienced or educated in, meaning skills are going to waste.

On the flipside, in this current climate communities face mass exoduses if they cannot adapt. The loss of walk in customers will hit regional areas more severely if they have not, cannot or will not move to online platforms wherever possible.

However, this offers a window of opportunity to assist both the employee and employer.

With the tourism and hospitality industries virtually wiped off the grid for now, the common skill set of basic customer service has seen them redeployed into roles with national titans such as Kogan, Telstra and Centrelink.

Affording to keep up with the demand has become a great deal more streamlined than what it traditionally would be - less costs towards rent, office equipment and even parking facilities, translates to more money for wages.

While the operations are of course vastly different between Telstra, Australian icon with 25,000 employees versus a retail gift store in regional Queensland with three staff - the formula is essentially the same.

Adapt, streamline, survive. If actioned properly, it has been proven that remote workers are likely to have higher levels of both productivity and job satisfaction.

It is worth noting that in 2020, many of us have had to call Centrelink for the first time in our adult lives. You will not know if the person on the other end of the phone is working from Melbourne or Mount Isa. However, if it keeps them out of the Jobseeker cue AND keeps them contributing to the economy of their post code - wherever that may be - does it really matter?

As we all forge new habits whilst living with COVID-19, ideally flexible employment options for all Australians might just be one that sticks around for the long term - everybody wins.