More Australians may be asked to ease back to the worksite in the days ahead as vaccination rates pick up. But, as a new study shows, there's more to the return to office than meets the eye.
Not only do some workers dread going back to the physical workspace full-time. Some are also willing to give up certain perks in favour of greater work flexibility.
More than half of workers (54%) polled across 7,000 organisations in Australia prioritise the chance to work in a hybrid model as much as – if not more than – the chance to get a 5% pay increase, according to research from Deloitte Access Economics, which was commissioned by Telstra.
The study found hybrid work to be more beneficial to companies and the economy overall. "In fact, Australia's economy could be $18bn larger and more than 42,000 extra full-time jobs could be created over the next decade if the country adopts a hybrid working future," analysts said.
Businesses with hybrid work policies are purported to:
have 6% higher income, on average
are 22% more likely to see higher productivity
are 28% more likely to be innovative than rivals without such policies
And it isn't just large employers who are seeing these benefits. "Small and medium businesses have more to gain through higher incomes and productivity from hybrid working than their larger counterparts," they said. It's only that larger organisations have "invested earlier in digitising their customer experiences and workplaces".
For SMEs that introduce the hybrid work model successfully, however, they stand to increase their income by 7%, according to the study's estimates.
Beyond the numbers, however, there appears to be evidence that hybrid work enhances employee well-being and experience, so much so that some workers would forgo getting a raise for this perk.
"Removing barriers to work creates more opportunities for mums and dads with young kids, people with disabilities or caring responsibilities, Indigenous Australians and those living in regional and remote parts of Australia," the study suggested.
Hybrid work changes have seen:
90% of respondents report they have improved or maintained their mental health
83% believe their physical health has improved or stayed the same
"Firstly, leaders need to make bold and deliberate choices to suit their workplaces and their people so they strengthen the ties they have with their employees," the study said. "By listening to your people, and developing a hybrid working plan that's easy for everyone to understand, it will help to build greater engagement across the business."
Apart from having clear policies in place, employers must also ensure "everyone has access to the right tools, software, services and support" necessary to doing their job successfully.
It isn't the end of the physical office, however. But, for many, it will instead become a place "for people to come together for training, collaboration, and connection, rather than outdated 9-5 work," analysts predict.