Aussie businesses slow in adopting work from home practices

A survey of over 1000 Australian professionals reveals that only 36 per cent of Aussie organisations implemented work from home practices within one to two days of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The research, conducted by global recruitment firm Robert Walters, shows the move to working from was adopted much quicker overseas: implementation of such measures within two days was 68 per cent in the US, 57 per cent in New Zealand, 52 per cent in the UK and 50 per cent in Japan.

Furthermore, 60 per cent of respondents believed that the preference of their senior leaders for traditional ways of working has been a barrier that prevented more employees to be able to work from home. And the same percentage of respondents cited technology problems as another such barrier.

“There is no doubt COVID-19 has been the biggest event to have impacted the business world since the global financial crisis. James Nicholson, the ANZ Managing Director of Robert Walters, said. “In a tremendous effort of maintaining business continuity, whilst at the same time ensuring the safety of their employees, business leaders made swift changes to the way they work, leading to an unprecedented acceleration in remote working.

“With many businesses now going back to the office, the changing expectations of employees in a post COVID-19 world has meant that organisations and particularly senior leaders will need to adapt their thinking and implement what flexible working now looks like,” Nicholson added.

The survey found that, while 50 per cent felt that working from home prior to the COVID-19 outbreak was an exception rather than the rule, 76 per cent believed that their leaders will use this experience to make work from home available for more employees on a regular basis.

“For many senior leaders the mandatory lockdown has been a trial run for embedding workplace flexibility into new ways of working,” Nicholson said. “It is great to see that organisations are taking the need to adapt and be flexible with work practices seriously which has been effectively demonstrated in the diverse range of back to the office strategies that are being considered (see below graph).”

Aside from working from home, the survey found other areas that business leaders will need to quickly adapt to:

  • 75 per cent feel their leaders will need to be more empathetic to work-life balance.
  • 69 per cent believe their leaders will need to focus on outcomes rather than hours worked.
  • 65 per cent believe their leaders need to better understand technology and its role in collaborative working.

Commute time has also been a major concern for the respondents, with 89 per cent of respondents believing it to be the biggest drain on their mental health.

“In less than a decade, the average commute time in Australia has jumped by 23 per cent,” Nicholson said. “The growth in commute time obviously having an impact on employee mental health. Increasing and maintaining flexible working arrangements that were introduced during lock-down will go a long way to increasing the health, safety and wellbeing of employees now and into the future.”

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