In a survey of 2,000 Australian office workers, 75 per cent of respondents agree that COVID-19 has changed the way they work for good. However, only a mere 20 per cent strongly agree that employers have a plan in place for work in a COVID world. This begs the question: how should small businesses approach the new future of work?
When returning to the office in a COVID-safe world, employees will no longer adhere to the “standard” nine-to-five workday. After experiencing the flexibility and agility that comes with remote work, 71 per cent agree that they would like to use this unique period of time to redefine how they work in the future. While employees have no doubt experienced the pain points of remote work, Australia’s workforce is more open-minded than ever – and businesses should be, too.
This period of change is an opportunity for small businesses to define a more successful future, right now. To ensure your business can meet the changing needs of Australia’s workforce, here are three key pointers that will keep you ahead of the curve:
The mass shift to remote work has quickly shown that the traditional office is becoming outdated and nonessential to achieving high productivity. With the office becoming the last refuge for printers, scanners and fax machines, it’s clear that now is time for small businesses to decide the importance and overall return on investment (ROI) of a permanent, physical office location. If it is just a safe haven for clunky technologies, it may be time to cut the cord and implement a digital-first working model, one that ditches the office and prioritises smarter ways of working together — such as weekly team meet-ups at a local coffee shop or public working space.
Establishing a culture that trusts employees to complete their work despite not being in the office or sticking to the standard 9 to 5 day will help maintain team satisfaction and improve overall productivity. To achieve trust while maintaining productivity, it is important to set clear expectations and focus on the output of work, rather than honing in on the number of hours worked or micromanaging each step. This will empower employees to proactively manage their own time, set out a schedule that works best for them and help them take ownership of their work from the comfort of their own home.
As digital collaboration tools enable the ability to work from anywhere, these same tools can offer employees channels to communicate and stay connected from home. Small-business owners should look to set up work chat apps, virtual check-ins, and online team building activities using interactive platforms like Skype, Slack or Google Hangouts. Leveraging digital tools will encourage regular interactions between colleagues despite the physical distance, helping staff stay engaged, motivated and boost connectivity in this new world of work.
Empowering employees to work remotely is not limited to the big corporations, as small businesses have a lot to gain from jumping on board. Leading teams with trust and replacing old-fashioned ways of work with modern, digital communication tools will ensure organisations will reap long-term benefits for both the employee and employer. Small businesses need to stay on the digital front-foot and acknowledge that the new normal is inclusive of a more agile way of work and ultimately, this open approach will help businesses continue moving through COVID-19 and beyond.
Brad Newton, VP and GM – APAC, DocuSign