A leading entrepreneur has hit out at Australia’s richest high-rise developer after he slammed companies that let their employees work from home as “parasites”.
Kathryn Porritt, who leads a team of 35, said she was “outraged” by real estate developer Harry Triguboff’s comments, labelling the remarks as “uneducated”.
The Meriton founder, who is worth an estimated $11 billion, thinks employees are only “working half the time” remotely.
“We have to also stop this work from home,” Mr Triguboff told a business breakfast reported by TheDaily Telegraph.
“You can have figures that they will work. I say they only work half the time.”
But Ms Porritt, the owner of Business Bravery, which offers coaching for entrepreneurs around the world, has let her staff work from home permanently since setting up the company three years ago.
The Brisbane-based boss said there is no evidence remote working reduced productivity, with her workforce spread across the globe.
“I was outraged to effectively be called a parasite for running a remote workforce … and inferring CEO’s teams are also parasites isn’t the right way to motivate people to get back into office,” she told news.com.au.
“What would be more productive would be looking at what’s best for employees, teams, productivity, efficiency, innovation and creativity. If we need to relook at the way commercial property is leased and used that would be a healthy conversation to be having as an industry, country and as employers.”
Mr Triguboff said he was concerned city office spaces were being wasted, particularly if banks and government agencies are allowing employees to work from home.
While Ms Porritt said she understood that the property industry was nervous about remote working, it should also be seen as an opportunity.
“The whole commercial real estate industry could get creative. Someone is going to come out of this as an extreme innovator and maverick and do incredibly well,” she said.
“I would suggest that industry needs to turn its attention to the new environment and what we can do, rather than throwing stones at people running businesses and doing really well with the new way of working.”
She added that working from home offered huge benefits including a better work life balance, flexible arrangements around children, appointments and errands, as well as allowing her creative employees the space to come up with “incredible ideas”.
In return, she said she receives the most “extraordinary loyalty, creativity and outputs” from her staff.
The global entrepreneur and business strategist said all her employees connect with each other and clients on Zoom, while they also use the communication service Slack.
But she said ensuring a workplace culture still exists online, equivalent to the random chat in the kitchen while making a coffee, also takes work.
“I love the fact that I have a life and I can get to work really easily and I can dip in and out of work really easily and I know my team really loves it,” she explained.
“It does take a substantial investment in time and energy from the leadership team to make sure there is a really solid culture built. So I think as long as we are continuing to innovate, and we have got our attention turned to how to continually evolve and optimise a remote workforce, people are going to do incredible things with this and for me this is the future.”
Mr Triguboff also took aim at Aussie banks at the business breakfast, joking it was difficult to use their services “because they don’t work”.
“The bosses of the banks cannot tell me any more that they are very careful; that nobody gets sick,” he said.
“Nobody’s sick and nobody got sick in their lousy banks so, forget about that. They should stop being parasites. They have to work.”
But according to an October survey conducted by enterprise software giant Atlassian, 77 per cent of those who participated in the study believed their overall work life balance had improved as a result of working from home.
Recently, the Australian tech company announced it will only require staff to come into their nearest office four times a year.
Its billionaire co-founder and co-chief executive Scott Farquhar has been to the Sydney headquarters only three times in the past year and two of those days were for external meetings, rather than teaming up with colleagues.
Mr Farquhar said the $80 billion tech giant’s working from home policy is crucial to allow the company to tap into talent outside of Sydney and give people around Australia access to high paying tech jobs.