With isolation restrictions starting to ease in Australia, we are faced with two options: we can return as quickly as possible to business as usual or we can take this opportunity to reimagine what type of country we want to live, work and raise our children in. For mine, BAU is for the faint hearted and the time is ripe for some massive workplace disruption because, let’s face it, Covid-19 has laid most of the hard, disruptive, groundwork already, so let’s capitalise on it by creating a BAU version 2 (BAUv2).
In a recent CEDA article, Building a Fairer Australia After Covid-19, the authors write that fundamental to effective social and economic recovery after a disaster (a bush fire, earthquake, pandemic etc) is the concept of ‘betterment’ – that is, not only repairing what has been damaged or broken, but doing so in a way which enhances the ability of society to withstand and recover from future events.
Covid-19 presents a huge opportunity for businesses to embrace ‘betterment’ and to rethink the way we actually do business. How can we create a work environment that allows us to be better and more productive workers, with a better work life balance, and to deliver better long term economic and social outcomes? Just what is our vision for BAUv2?
Do we really need to return to the office?
No and Yes.
- No – depending on the nature of the role, many office workers can work in a sustained way from home, provided they have the right technology, ergonomic environment, and support from their employer.
- Yes – it is still important to team work, engagement, alignment and creating a collegiate atmosphere to come together from time to time. How often this coming together is required will depend on a number of factors including the nature of the roles, the size of the business, the capability of the employees and, let’s be honest, the capability of the managers.
Ultimately however, unless a role demands face to face office contact – there is no real reason why an office based worker can not work remotely, at least some of the time.
Do we want to return to the office?
It seems not. A current study conducted in late April of 1500 employees across America, Canada and the United Kingdom, found that 91% of those surveyed expressed a preference to work from home at least some of the time, with 21% wanting to work from home full time, post the pandemic. Two thirds of these employees felt their organisation would be supportive of them working remotely and more interestingly, 69% of those employees who did not feel their employer would support ongoing remote working options indicated they would leave the organisation to work elsewhere.
In a recent article for CEOWorld magazine, I cited a number of global studies which make a compelling case for working remotely when it comes to productivity. Many employees are simply more productive working from home than in a traditional workplace. There are a number of reasons why – including fewer distractions and interruptions and less stress from not having to commute. These factors are consistent with research I have been conducting during Covid-19. Having been engaged by a number of organisations globally to educate their staff on working productively from home while in isolation, I have anonymously surveyed participants as to what is working and what is not working for them.
When it comes to what is not working, predominantly employees miss working collaboratively – they miss having physical access to each other and to their manager.
When it comes to what is working, high on the list in favour of remote work is the reduced number of interruptions, increased focus, reduced distractions that come with open plan working environments, meetings running to time and being on point, and the time and emotional costs (aka road range and traffic frustration) saved in not having to commute. Add to this more time with family, regular exercise and more time to rest, and it’s not hard to see why working from home, at least some of the time, is so compelling.
Learning the lessons from Covid-19
As we emerge from isolation, one question all businesses should be asking themselves is: what has worked well for us during covid that we want to take into BAUv2? There will be workplace practices, policies, processes, tools and technology that you have adopted on the fly as a quick fix for covid that have worked remarkably well for your business and your workforce. You don’t want to lose these efficiencies – you need to build them in for the ‘betterment’ of your business. And greater access to remote work should be high on your agenda.
Written by Kate Christie. Have you read?
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