“We’ve seen changes before, like services or the increase in women in the workforce, but that happened over decades,” he said.
“Working from home has come out of nowhere.”
The commission found the single biggest gain perceived by most employees was the end to the daily commute. In Sydney, the mean commute per day is almost 75 minutes while in Melbourne it is almost 70 minutes.
The cost of that time in Sydney was $49 a day and $47 in Melbourne. That does not include associated costs with driving to work, such as wear and tear on a vehicle, parking fees or road tolls.
The PC also found there would be a large shift in city populations if working from home stayed popular.
Rather than hundreds of thousands of people moving into CBDs, many would stay in their suburban homes, changing demand for local goods and services.
In Sydney, populations in inner west suburbs such as Ashfield and Leichhardt, northern suburbs such as Turramurra and Hornsby, and southern suburbs such as Jannali, Hurstville and Peakhurst would all swell.
Across Melbourne, populations in eastern suburbs such as Malvern and Caulfield, Mornington Peninsula suburbs including Mount Martha and Safety Beach, and northern suburbs such as Preston, Thomastown and Mill Park would all increase.
Mr Brennan said businesses had some concerns about working from home, especially around the ability of staff to interact with each other which could produce unexpected productivity gains.
He said it was likely a “hybrid” approach would develop, under which staff worked a few days at home and a few in a central office.
Employees in office-based, full-time positions had the greater potential to work at home. More than half of all managers and professionals were in a position to avoid the daily commute while three-quarters of clerical jobs could be done at home. Women are more likely to already work in occupations that are able to be done from home compared to men who are employed in areas such as construction and mining where there fewer opportunities to work remotely.
One issue associated with recent lockdowns has been the potential for a staff member to have their workday interrupted by children or overseeing home learning.
Mr Brennan said once the pandemic was over, this issue was unlikely to be of such a concern as children returned to schools for education.