Australia is the 25th best place in the world for remote work thanks to high levels of economic safety, but its cyber security legal measures and cost of living pressures are holding it back, according to new research.

The NordLayer Global Remote Work index ranks countries in terms of four categories: economic safety, cyber safety, digital and physical infrastructure, and social safety.

The organisation compared and assessed countries across these categories and a number of sub-attributes, including cyber security response capacity and legal measures, tourism attractiveness, and internet quality and affordability.

According to the report, Australia is the 25th best country out of the 108 surveyed for remote work, a drop of six places from the previous year.

Denmark topped the list again, followed by the Netherlands and Germany.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea and Japan placed higher than Australia, while it was the highest ranked nation in Oceania.

Australia performed particularly strongly in the economic safety category, coming in at fourth overall. It was ranked third for its tourism appeal and first for English proficiency.

Australia’s e-government initiatives were ranked seventh worldwide, showing advanced capabilities in leveraging technology for governance and public services.

The physical infrastructure in Australia was ranked as the 12th best in the world.

But Australia performed poorly in terms of cyber safety, coming in at 35th. Australia was also ranked at 92nd in terms of cost of living, and 53rd for personal safety.

Remote work here to stay

According to NordLayer managing director Donatas Tamelis, remote work is now the new norm.

“Even though some of the big tech companies recently brought their employees back to the office or introduced a hybrid work model, remote work is here to stay,” Tamelis said.

“It’s not just a trend – it is a fundamental shift in how we approach productivity and work-life balance. Embracing remote work empowers our teams to harness their full potential, regardless of geographical boundaries.”

Cyber security must be a key focus for all companies that have some employees working remotely, Tamelis said.

“In the age of remote work, cyber security is not just an option,” he said.

“It’s a critical necessity to safeguard our data and protect our organisation from evolving cyber threats. Working remotely opens up new opportunities, but it also exposes us to potential security risks. Cyber security vigilance is our first line of defence.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic driving a huge increase in hybrid and remote work across the world, there has been the emergence of the hybrid paradox, where workers want flexibility but also want connections with their team.

This has led to the adoption of a new phase of remote work known as structured flexible work.

It was recently found that a number of Australian employers are paying remote workers less, introducing two-tiered pay systems to take into account the differing cost of living in regional areas versus metropolitan hubs.

A report found that nearly half of Australian employers are paying their remote workers less than those living in the city because of these new systems.

But remote work isn’t yet seeing Australians flock to the country and regional areas. According to a recent CSIRO report, Australia’s tech jobs are still concentrated in capital cities, with the bulk of these roles located in the country’s three biggest cities, and most of the workforce commuting from nearby suburbs or working from home.

A number of reports have also found that workers allowed to work remotely or flexibly or happier, healthier and better employees.

One such report by the University of Melbourne’s Work Futures Hallmark Research Initiative found that employees with flexible work options are happier, more motivated and more likely to remain in their current role than those forced to return to the office.