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A blog with tips and insights
into the practice of law

Change to work-life

Will Coronavirus normalise WFH arrangements and bring an end to the traditional 9-5 working day in Australia?

 

This pandemic will no doubt evolve the ‘normal’ working conditions for most individuals in corporate jobs. As much of the world’s workforce are now working from home, the coronavirus has seen the evolution and increased use of remote working technologies and practices.

 

This nation-wide remote-work experiment is a fantastic opportunity to prepare for the future – where the preferences of younger generations demand that businesses offer flexible and remote-working options.

 

Gartner has recently published research, which shows that:

  • By 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30% due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce.
  • 63% of today’s professionals say they could work anywhere, and remote work policies are common (in place at 71% of organizations).
  •  Remote work is already attractive to employees who need greater flexibility. It eliminates commuting time for those with family obligations; these employees are nearly twice as likely to work remotely, at least sometimes, as those without such responsibilities. And the workforce segment supporting aging family members continues to grow, adding to demands for flexible work arrangements.

 

Prior to the crisis, 71% of Australian businesses provided remote work options to some employees. Coronavirus is forcing an accelerated shift into what was already widely seen as the future of work. Although it is widely thought that remote workers are less productive, it has been seen that remote workers actually work too much, as they start early and finish late, which tends to increase productivity by 3 hours per day! A recent study by Airtasker suggested that remote workers work 1.4 more days per month than in their office, which results in more than 3 additional working weeks per year!

 

Many aspects of the employee experience will become more virtual post coronavirus. Remote work and flexibility will be more feasible and accepted as managers learn how to manage virtually and realize their employees can be productive whilst working from home. As well as traditional day-to-day working activities, the coronavirus pandemic has also shown us that large-scale events can be held virtually. Moreover, remote working can save businesses money on rent for office space and will enhance the legitimacy of flexible working arrangements for those with family and other commitments, which make the regular work commute difficult.

 

Furthermore, talent processes will have to become virtual, which we have already seen in recruitment with the need for phone or zoom interviews to vet candidates. Talent processes are the backbone of any business, as recruiting, performance management and mentoring are crucial for the functioning of a business. Human Resource functions will have to learn how to best manage such interactions in a virtual environment, where we can no longer meet face to face. However, after we return to some form of normalcy post coronavirus, we can use these virtual technologies to assess candidates first and foremost without wasting physical time for the candidate having to commute, hence smoothing the talent process and making it more efficient.

 

In order to remain productive whilst working at home, I have compiled a list of key tips to assist:

  1. Make a schedule. Routine is essential to retain some normalcy in this period of isolation. If you normally wake up at 6am to exercise, you should still get up at 6am to exercise – you don’t have to change your schedule, just adapt it! Your day should start off with key tasks that require concentration. You should schedule lunch breaks with your family or housemates so that you can get that essential social interaction we need in our lives. After lunch, tasks that are repetitive and shallow are often best to complete, such as emails and administrative tasks. Late afternoon is proven best for social communication and collaborative tasks with your work colleagues.
  2. Create a welcoming work space in your home. Having a workspace which you are excited about and can work from productively is essential for remote work. Ideally this workspace will not be in your bedroom, as it is imperative to separate work from sleep, however the space should be free from distractions. Light a candle, prepare your snacks and make it an enjoyable space to work for the day!
  3. Provide regular updates to your manager. This is key, particularly for the future if we are to work from home more regularly. Your manager will need a regular update so that they do not lose sight of the valuable work you are completing and so that, in the future, they can trust you to be productive whilst working remotely.
  4. Keep employees engaged. If employees have a clear agenda and objective on what they are to complete day-to-day and each week, everyone is able to understand their role and have some structure in their day whilst working remotely. In virtual meetings, rules should be established and everyone’s voice should be heard so that they feel important. Establishing clear responsibility for employees is essential. Further, the loss of opportunities for face-to-face collaboration can sometimes impact workers’ productivity, especially for extroverts. Utilize innovation in this time of remote working through virtual collaboration tools which can make everyone in the business feel connected and of value.
  5. Psychological wellbeing and socialisation is essential (even if we are in isolation). All employers should check on the psychological wellbeing of their employees. It is paramount to actively check-in with each team member to see whether they need support and conversations around mental health should be normalized. Further, take time out of your day to do something you enjoy – whether that be walking the dog, getting a coffee from your local or having a glass of wine on the balcony at sunset.

 

 

Overall, the coronavirus pandemic will normalize working remotely for most businesses and show them that employees can be productive from the confines of their own home. Although office interaction and the bouncing back of ideas that occurs in the workplace is essential for innovative business and psychological wellbeing, no doubt we will see the increase in flexible work arrangements by most businesses in Australia after the coronavirus pandemic leaves us.