The Australian workplace has been going through a significant transformation in recent years, driven by various factors including technological advances and the normalisation of flexible working conditions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As technology continues to evolve and the nature of the workplace becomes more automated and diffuse, businesses will be required to adapt to the new changes in order to stay competitive and ensure their workforce is engaged and meets the business’ evolving needs.  

As such, we will be dedicating the next issues of our client alerts to a series on the Future of Work. These alerts will be designed to give our readers a preview of the future of work in the coming years, identify some of the challenges with which the business may be confronted and provide employers with ideas as to how they can ensure a workforce that is resilient and can adapt to changing times. In particular, in this series we will cover the following topics:

  1. The changing nature of work itself;
  2. Artificial Intelligence and its impact on work and employment;
  3. Surveillance – what employers can and should be doing;
  4. The use of biometric data and other sensitive information; and
  5. 4-day work week and flexible work practices

The changing nature of work and artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”), and other methods of automation, are one of the most significant and novel changes which will influence the Australian workplaces in the upcoming years. In fact, AI and other forms of automation, are already being used to automate routine and repetitive tasks in various industries such as financial accounting, manufacturing plants and equipment and transportation. Within the next couple of years, as technology and automation become more advanced, more businesses will turn towards AI in order to find ways to improve efficiency, eliminate human error and reduce the large costs involved in hiring staff. In the next edition of the series, we will delve into artificial intelligence, how it is being used in the workplace and steps that employers can take to ensure that they have measures in place to deal with the changes that AI introduces.

Surveillance – what employers can and should be doing

As technology advances, another extremely relevant topic will be surveillance in the workplace. At the moment, surveillance is already being used by employers to collect data and monitor workplaces in order to improve productivity. However, as technology advances, employers will be able to access more surveillance tools, including AI surveillance tools, to improve their surveillance. However, as more data is collected and more employers decide to increase their surveillance practices, we note that employers must balance the benefits of surveillance with their employees’ privacy. In that connection, it is important for employers to ensure that they are taking the correct steps to ensure that any surveillance that they wish to implement is proportionate and reasonable and most importantly, that they are not breaching their employees’ rights to privacy. In the edition on surveillance, we will discuss the intersection between employer’ right to surveillance and the employees’ right to privacy and provide employers with tips about which measures to put in place to ensure that they are striking the right balance.

The use of biometric data and other sensitive information

Biometrics security is the use of physical or biological attributes for authentication and identification purposes such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning. Businesses have started to use biometrics in order to facilitate and streamline certain processes such as logging in to devices such as mobile phones and laptops. Further, businesses have also started to use biometrics to prevent security breaches, especially in light of recent security breaches around Australia. However, much like the use of surveillance, employers must also ensure that their use of biometrics does not interfere with employees’ rights to privacy.  As such, in order to ensure that employees’ privacy is upheld, employers must be proactive and must take reasonable steps to protect the storage and use of staff members’ biometrics. The article on biometrics will also discuss employers’ responsibilities when using biometrics and the intersection with privacy.

4-day work week and flexible work practices

In addition to technological advances, one common theme which has been discussed in relation to the future of work is the introduction of a 4-day work week and ongoing flexible work practices. The concept of a four-day work week, rather than the traditional and existing 5-day work week model, has been gaining traction in Australia, especially after a greater emphasis on work-life-balance after the Covid 19 pandemic. So far, the 4-day work week model has been trialled and implemented by businesses across the world, including in the United Kingdom, in New Zealand, in Iceland and in Spain. More recently, Workplace Express released a study which showed that that reducing working hours for the same pay can:

  1. make organisations more productive;
  2. increase the revenue of businesses;
  3. increase employee wellbeing; and
  4. result in less stress and burnout for employees.

In the series on the 4-day work week, we will discuss what a 4-day work week, and work flexibility more generally, would look like for employers and what the benefits and pitfalls these changes may bring.


Overall, the future of the workplace in Australia, is likely to be influenced by new technological advances and will likely continue the trend of a greater focus on flexibility and work-life-balance. As a result, in response to these changes, employers will be required to adapt to these changes and put measures in place to protect their businesses and their employees. We will take this opportunity to give employers some food for thought to enable them to navigate these rapidly occurring advances and changes.

If you require any assistance or information in relation to this alert, please do not hesitate to contact us.

This alert is not intended to constitute and should not be treated as legal advice.

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