Extended COVID lockdowns have heralded a shift in worker habits that is unlikely to be reversed in the long term, it seems.
Younger workers are more reluctant than their older colleagues to return the workplace full-time as employers seek to encourage staff back into the office, reveals the ADP Research Institute’s People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View.
In Australia, more than half (54%) of 18–24-year-olds and nearly two thirds (65%) of 25–34-year-olds surveyed would consider looking for another job if their employer insisted on a full-time return to the workplace. This is compared to 46% of the 45-54 age bracket and only 27% of the 55 and over demographic.
Younger employees, according to the report, have vastly shifted expectations and hopes for the workplace of the future, including a greater expectation of flexibility. Travel time and surging travel costs are also acting as further detractors to full-time office work.
“After experiencing extended lockdowns in many states, remote and flexible working has become an expectation for many Australians. Returning to in-person work full time is a daunting proposition for workers, particularly the younger generations, and companies should consider their future workplace arrangements,” says Kylie Baullo, managing director, Australia and New Zealand, ADP.
Whilst remote work was a necessity during peak COVID waves, Baullo says businesses must now be more purposeful and conscious of the evolving needs of workers and employers as they navigate future working arrangements - whether that includes a return to office or remote arrangements. Businesses should consider not only where employees prefer to work, but also how they work most effectively. Engaging and supporting people leaders to align how work is done with where work is done.
“This data calls out a strong employee voice. As businesses review how and where work will be done in the future, it is vital to collaborate with their employees. Face-to-face sessions between leaders and employees are helpful to ensure the different needs of generations and other individual scenarios are considered and planned for.”
Although returning to the workplace presents social and career benefits for young people, the research shows that the majority of workers of this age are opposed to a full-time return.
“Resistance is especially strong in the slightly older 25-34- and 35–44-year-old cohorts, who are more likely to have had a taste of office work before the COVID-19 pandemic, and are better able to compare in-office and work-from-home arrangements. With this insight, these cohorts are telling us they are looking for a combination of the ability to work remotely whilst having team days and cross-functional collaboration, and development opportunities in the office,” Baullo says.
Baullo adds that to ensure career opportunities are not missed, businesses will need to consider how to entice staff to work in-person, as well as provide a balanced workplace by also meeting the needs and wants of staff through flexible options
“The physical office space is more than ever becoming a consideration. Where people are looking for a workspace that enables and facilitates collaboration and quiet space, a seamless transition between office and remote,” she notes.