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New ways of working: no way back

New ways of working in Australia and New Zealand

If the pandemic has confirmed one thing so far, it's that we're unlikely to return to the way we used to work. Teleworking has been a revelation for employees, who have been able to combine their work and personal lives with greater flexibility. Many companies have also shown optimism for flexible working, as their employees have proven able to drive growth and creativity virtually. As we see more companies taking this approach, our current trajectory suggests that the future of work will be hybrid.

With the pandemic subsiding and cities reopening, many businesses are contemplating how to get staff back to the office. But with a workforce that has become accustomed to a certain level of freedom and autonomy, a revolution in the way we work could be just around the corner.

Are we ready to return to the office full-time?

There is no escaping the fact that many workers do not intend to return to the office full-time. In fact, as many as half of Australians and New Zealanders are likely to resign from jobs that don’t provide sufficient flexibility. It is true that working from the kitchen table or the home desk is not always ideal, but the extra flexibility more than makes up for it. According to the Chanticleer CEO Poll, most of Australia’s major companies will move to a hybrid model, with staff spending two to three days in the office each week. However, there are likely to be some companies that still hope to return to pre-pandemic work habits. The question is, why?

Proponents of returning to the office emphasise the creativity and collaboration that is supposedly lost when working from home. Others are of the opinion that remote work is simply not suitable for certain companies. However, most employees think that hybrid work would make their company more flexible.

However, this flexible approach does not imply that you telecommute 100% of the time. In fact, at Alight Solutions, most of our people prefer to alternate the days or weeks they work in the office. The reason is simple: teleworking lets us organise our personal lives better and save commuting time.

On the other hand, it can also make us feel isolated, disconnected from our team, or even reduce our ability to learn. Since teleworking is here to stay, companies are opting for a hybrid model that allows them to keep workers connected corporately and freshly motivated.

As a result, many employers are realising everything they could save, especially in terms of office overheads. If we add the rent, plus the fixed expenses of furniture, networks, and services such as coffee, the result is quite clear. Why keep ten floors of a building when I only need three of them? According to a study conducted by the University of Sydney, employers could potentially save AU$8,500 to US$13,000 per employee per year by having more staff work from home.

Even so, with lockdowns persisting, many employers are delaying major decisions regarding office space. Some are downsizing, though many others are taking the opportunity to upgrade to premium office spaces.

Wherever we work, the coronavirus pandemic has been a turning point in our working lives. The acceleration of digital transformation, new ways of relating and change in the workplace means that companies must look to the future - there is no going back to the old ways of working.

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