The COVID-19 pandemic was a defining moment for Australian businesses – and employees. As our cities and suburbs emptied of workers, more Australians began working from home than ever before and the office as we know it shifted online.
While these were not new concepts, the pandemic has accelerated change and irrevocably transformed the nature of work. Now, as life begins to return to normal post-lockdowns, smaller business owners are facing the challenge of how to entice workers back to the office.
To understand what the future holds for businesses, JLL has researched and released the Shaping the future of work: Four foundational truths report, which found three key areas for employers to consider.
1. Hybrid work will become the new norm
While employees missed the buzz of the office during lockdowns, they also valued the work-life balance that came from working from home.
New workstyles and methods of sharing and collaborating have developed quickly and become mainstream.
However, while working from home will become more commonplace, the business office will remain the primary work location longer-term and some 79% of employees aspire to be back in the office at least once a week.
Great offices bring a business to life, provide a social outlet, connect new employees to culture, drive employee engagement and affinity and encourage spontaneous interactions.
Looking forward, a workplace model with built-in flexibility will be essential and work-from-everywhere will become the new norm, enabled by both suitable technology and dynamic office occupancy management.
2. Employers will need to invest in health, flexibility and technology
As well as changing expectations around work locations, employees’ priorities are also shifting. Over a year into the pandemic, workers continue to emphasise the importance of health and wellness. The Shaping the future of work report shows 58 per cent of employees consider health and wellbeing programs to be a key element that will make their employer unique in the long run.
Mental health has also become more of a priority. During the pandemic workers were forced to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, working while managing caring responsibilities and a continued feeling of uncertainty. As a result, the survey found that almost half of workers are experiencing pandemic-induced mental health issues, likely exacerbated further by burnout or social isolation. Tackling this issue will require a concerted effort from smaller businesses.
Navigating the future of work will also require a range of technological tools to support new ways of working. In order to create a work-from-anywhere model, just some of the technologies that will become more important include flexible office platforms, ‘smart’ videoconference facilities to enable connectivity, employee engagement and communication apps, real-time booking and scheduling tools and touchless access controls.
3. Operating models will shift
In order to attract, engage and retain workers, smaller businesses will need to view their employees as stakeholders who demand more from their workspace in terms of experience and benefits.
The future operating model should put flexibility at its core to motivate and invigorate returning employees with something “better than before”.
Looking forward, clear and frequent employee communication will be more important than ever, providing a way for small business owners and managers to better understand their employees’ wants and needs.
Ultimately, business leaders who are committed to transformation to new ways of working have an opportunity to help their people to become happier, healthier and more engaged.