With so many people having to switch to remote work this year, mental and physical wellbeing has taken a significant hit. As things slowly return to ‘normal’ in major centres around Australia, many businesses are planning to maintain a more decentralised operating model with a larger and more permanent remote and hybrid workforce working from anywhere.
It was something that one of our customers, Sydney law firm Silberstein & Associates had to face. “When our staff were asked to pick up their laptops, grab their keyboard and screens and head home, the entire culture of the firm was interrupted. How do you maintain a collaborative culture, when human contact is the very thing that is being forced to stop?” said Jessica Silberstein, the firm’s CEO.
Capital city CBD offices are nowhere near their pre-COVID occupancy levels. As of October, Melbourne CBD offices were at just 7% and Sydney at 40%. Even the best-performing city, Hobart, was still only at 79% of its pre-COVID occupancy levels, according to Property Council of Australia figures.
It’s really important that businesses are assessing and planning for how they embrace this new hybrid working environment, because it is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
You will need to factor in how you create a ‘connected culture’ and how you manage your workforce, enabled by the right technology and support. You can create this connected culture with a combination of technology to help your teams stay connected as well as a deep commitment to supporting the work-life balance of your employees.
In recent research we conducted with knowledge workers in Australia, Australia the US, UK and Canada, we found that creating a connected culture leads to significant gains in employee productivity and well-being. Employees at companies that promote a connected culture cite better physical and emotional well-being than their counterparts at companies without that culture. Similarly, a much larger percentage of employees working at companies that foster a connected culture say they are more productive working remotely than those who work for companies that don’t make the effort.
We also uncovered people who have thrived during the pandemic and are likely to continue to thrive working remotely in the longer-term. We found that almost one in ten workers reported feeling more productive, physically active, emotionally well, and more connected to colleagues during the shift to remote work.
It’s really important that you identify these ‘remote champions’ in your business and find out what has made them so successful during lockdown.
Kevin Joseph, Head of Organisational Development at Centaur Software, an Australian-owned developer of practice management software, said the company’s HR team has ensured that they keep lines of communication open for anyone who might have been struggling with remote working, but they’ve had no issues and found that the team are very happy to stay working from home. One really significant aspect of the experience has been for people to discover more of the human side to staff, by getting more insight into their lives while working from home. That’s been a real positive.
Some of the factors we found in our survey were related to their personal and family situation, their home environment and office set up. There are key aspects you can focus on to improve the remote working experience. The top factors cited by Australian workers in our survey that make them feel more connected are talking to people; a sense of productivity; fulfilment from the work they are doing; and collaborating. When asked how their company was helping them to feel more connected, their top three choices were frequent communications; enhanced collaboration tools; and virtual happy hours. When face-to-face communication is the biggest thing people miss about being in the office, it’s really important that you do what you can to replicate that in a virtual environment.
Ultimately, it remains critical that you continue to focus on the total employee experience – their systems of experience – for all staff, no matter where they are working. That includes constantly improving your remote workers’ access to resources and collaborative tools, so that they continue to feel connected to your company’s culture and their colleagues.
If you want to find out more about the findings of our research, to you can read the full Connected Culture Report here.