While the pandemic has been, in a word, awful, sometimes you have to find the silver linings. A huge shimmering outline of the dark COVID clouds has been how our relationship to work has been utterly transformed in just two and a half years.
Gone are the days when schlepping into the office Monday to Friday was a mandatory expectation. Not only have employers changed their expectations of their staff, employees have become far more demanding in the freedoms and benefits they receive in return for their 40 hours.
While we may have thought of it as just a temporary but necessary shift, it appears as though it’s one that’s here to stay.
That’s according to a new survey of nearly 1200 Australian companies which has found that just 4% of Aussie businesses now require their staff to come in five days a week.
The survey, conducted by the Australian HR Institute, found that 34% of companies had no minimum requirement but encouraged employees to come to the office. 28% of employers said they require a minimum of three days in the office while 16% require two days in the office. However, just 7% allow their employees to work continuously from home with no expectation to come in at all.
This is a huge shift given that, prior to March 2020, just under a quarter of companies allowed their employees to work from home one day a week. Now, that percentage is up to nearly two-thirds of offices where employees work at least one-day remote.
It’s not just the flexible work arrangements that have changed either, as over half of the organisations surveyed revealed that they were also offering further incentives to their employees. These included more social events as well as freebies like coffee and meals.
Nearly 75% of those surveyed said that they expect working from home and other flexible arrangements would either stay the same or increase over the next two years.
This being said, 65% of respondents said that employees were feeling disconnected from their colleagues because of the flexible working arrangements.
AHRI chief executive Sarah McCann-Bartlett said that the research indicates that companies need to invest more into adapting their working processes to cope with the employment shift.
“Most organisations are thinking about hybrid work only in terms of location, but there are other factors that need to be considered,” she said.
“Hybrid work models need to be designed with connection in mind. And those connections need to be meaningful.”
One of those adaptations could be the move towards the much-hyped four day work week, trials of which are currently underway in Australia and across the world. In the AHRI survey, 30% of companies responded that they were planning to shift their working arrangements to incorporate things like the four-day work week as well.
While we might not like it, we do have COVID to thank for this strange new world of remote working that we all find ourselves in.