Working anywhere: Embedding flexibility into your organisation
For years now, there has been a growing shift towards remote working. This year, though, the ability to work from anywhere morphed from a nice-to-have to a must-have overnight. With COVID-19 forcing a mass exodus from office buildings, almost every organisation around Australia went remote, just like that. What was the impact of this sudden shift?
In this next blog in our series on the rise of the home enterprise (which is based on our recent survey of Australian office workers’ experiences during COVID-19), we explore how ‘working anywhere’ is shaping up to be the way forward for many organisations. You can read the full survey results or continue below to take a deep dive into what ‘working anywhere’ really means – and why it is so important for businesses today.
A taste of freedom
In March, when the vast majority of Australian office workers suddenly found themselves working from home, many people experienced a new sense of freedom. This almost seems ironic, given the ‘lockdown’ laws we were living by. But, unshackled from the daily commute and the need to clock in at a designated time and place, workers enjoyed newfound flexibility and mobility.
Indeed, when asked about the biggest benefits of working from home, the top two responses were reclaiming the commute time (48%) and more flexible work hours (46%). If you wanted to get two hours of work done on your laptop while still in bed in the morning, fine. If you had three children stuck at home, too, and wanted to focus on their schooling during office hours, that was fine, too. Or, if you realised that you were most productive standing up at the kitchen bench with your laptop perched on a pile of books, all fine.
As long as work was getting done, then it didn’t matter when, where or how. Suddenly, all those organisations which had previously decried that working from home wasn’t practical, effective or possible had to eat humble pie.
Working from anywhere suits some people more
Interestingly, the survey revealed that some people thrived in home environments more than others. Older and male workers indicated a preference for in-person, office-based work; while younger, female workers were more likely to want flexible workstyles.
When it comes to the impact of remote working on workplace culture, the jury is out. Just over half (51%) stated that they felt team morale and empathy increased as a result of more fluidity in working hours. Which left half of office workers potentially feeling disconnected from their team when working at home. In fact, more than half of Australian workers (52%) say they prefer the structure and stability that comes with full-time office hours and teams who are physically present.
So, despite 30% of survey respondents saying they will request to work from home on a full-time basis post-COVID-19, it’s clear that organisations will still need to maintain office spaces for those who prefer the face-to-face work environment.
Digital infrastructure becomes more important
In a post-COVID-19 world, the key for businesses will be to empower each individual employee to work in the place, time and style that suits them. People want the ability to work anywhere, be it an office, home, a café. To achieve this, two things must happen:
- A culture of trust and transparency must be established and promoted across the organisation
- Organisations must invest in digital infrastructure to give employees easy, secure access to corporate data and documents, and equip them with the devices they need to work wherever they are.
Over three quarters (77%) of Australian office workers agree that the pandemic and subsequent recovery will accelerate the ongoing digitisation and flexibility of work. Businesses were quick to set people up with the infrastructure they needed to get work done at home. Now that it’s all set up, there are no excuses for not continuing in this vein. In this new future of work, people will lean more heavily on digital tools than ever before.