By Jacquie Norton
One of the unexpected benefits of the pandemic for me was that working from home suddenly became the norm. With two young children at home and living in the outer suburbs, the juggle of morning routines and kindy drop-offs became much more manageable.
However, I know the remote working model isn’t the preference for all my colleagues. Some prefer the work-life division that having a daily commute to the office provides. Others are earlier on in their career, and need the mentoring and social benefits of being in the same room as their colleagues.
The move to reinvigorate our cities
The impact of workforce location on Australian city centres, public transport and small business has been noticeable.
A report released by ANZ found that cafe transactions in Australian CBDs are currently running at 40 per cent of pre-COVID levels. A survey by the City of Melbourne in January showed 10 per cent of the CBDs shops had closed permanently as a direct result of the pandemic. A further 10 per cent had closed temporarily and not yet reopened.
In the last two years, our major cities have looked at strategies to encourage footfall back to the city. But as habits have formed around changed circumstances and COVID-19 concerns spike and fall, preference for work location has followed.
Worker preferences split
Workplaces in Sydney and Melbourne have started to welcome back employees following the lifting of ‘work-from-home’ directives. When asked in January what they’d like to do in future, workforce preferences were split three ways. A third (32%) preferred to work from home (the highest proportion in two years), just over a third (37%) would welcome a return to the workplace while 31% preferred a blend.
Source: AustraliaNOW; Jan-22; Workers that can work from home, n=496
Effective hybrid workplace solutions and maintaining employee engagement and cohesion will be a major challenge as businesses navigate this new environment.
Security and flexibility key
In February 2022, we asked Australians whether what they look for in a job or employer has changed in recent years. As many as 66% indicated that feeling secure has become more important to them, potentially a legacy of the uncertainty of employment during the pandemic.
Source: AustraliaNOW; Feb-22; Workers, n=519
Flexibility, working hours and the ability to work from home are also increasingly important to employees. With many workplaces forced to implement the infrastructure required for remote work, roles that have previously been tied to a workplace can now be done elsewhere. Workers can now see how two traditionally opposing desires (security and flexibility) are possible. In fact, among those who have the option to work from home, 38% indicated that they would find another job if they were no longer able to do so. Parents are more likely to be placing importance here, with one in two parents finding the ability to work remotely more important than before.
However, there is also a cohort of workers that would like to work from home less often than they currently are. Workers aged 18-29 years are more inclined than any other age group to want to come back to their workplace (1 in 3 want to work from home less often than they currently do). This illustrates the diversity of the workforce in terms of their wants and needs. It also highlights the ongoing importance the office is likely to play as we emerge from the past two years of remote work.
Will we see a Great Resignation here in Australia?
It remains to be seen whether the Great Resignation will play out in Australia, however job mobility intentions indicate that half of all workers feel now is a good time to move.
Source: AustraliaNOW; Feb-22; Workers, n=529
Now is a good time to revisit your policies, and have open conversations with employees to see where expectations have shifted.
AustraliaNOW is a weekly survey of n=1,000 Australians, exploring attitudes and perceptions of life in Australia today. If you would like to discuss the results of this research and their implications for your business or sector, please get in contact.