Australian employees’ preferences for hybrid ways of working in 2021

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Australian employees’ preferences for hybrid ways of working in 2021
Collaboration and socialising were unsurprisingly the main reasons for respondents who wanted to get back to the office.
Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

Study finds time saved by not commuting, flexibility and work-life balance were top reasons why employees preferred working from home

Bullet points:

  • Majority of employees in Australia want to continue working from home for an average of two days a week
  • Australians are looking for their employers to invest in a technology-driven hybrid working environment post-COVID-19
  • Hybrid meetings will remain, with half expecting hand gestures (clapping, clicking) to control video conferencing platforms within two years

The Majority of employees in Australia (55%) would prefer to continue working from home at least two days per week, despite half (51%) finding it less enjoyable now than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by collaboration technology provider Barco.

The research, which surveyed 1,750 white-collar workers across seven countries, including Australia, looks at how collaboration in the context of the corporate setting – along with the employees’ expectations – have evolved over the course of this year due to the pandemic. The study found time saved by not commuting, flexibility to work at times that suit people best and work-life balance were some of the top reasons why those surveyed prefer working from home.

Working from home has its downsides too, with difficulty in collaborating with colleagues (40%), missing the social side of office life (37%), and struggling to contribute to meetings (26%) being cited as among the top drawbacks.

Employees want a hybrid workplace model, where they have the flexibility and freedom to work from home when it works best for them or suits the type of work they need to do, but they can still work from the office some of the time. Other options for working in a post-COVID world included working in smaller satellite offices some of the time (26%) and co-working spaces (35%) some of the time.

There was a significant demand from workers for their employers to invest in better facilities and change existing facilities to enable this hybrid working balance. Hotdesking may become a thing of the past, with only 12% indicating it as a preference. Fears around hygiene were also clear. More than two in five Australians are worried about touching surfaces and screens, remote controls, meeting room chairs and door handles in their offices, requiring organisations to be rigorous in ensuring the office space is COVID-safe compliant.

Collaboration and connection are priorities

The survey results suggest many have suffered as a result of being separated from their colleagues, both emotionally and in their work. More than half of Australians said they feel less connected with their colleagues than before COVID-19 and the same number said that having to collaborate remotely with colleagues, clients and others does not come naturally. They also feel less connected to their organisations, with two in five saying their company sees them less as a person now compared to before the pandemic.

Collaboration and socialising were unsurprisingly the main reasons for respondents who wanted to get back to the office: 42% said they found it easier to work with colleagues in the office, while 46% said they liked the social aspect of office life.

Meetings must evolve

Where people meet in offices is likely to change post-COVID-19, with the days of the traditional boardroom dwindling. Over a quarter of Australians say they either never have meetings in boardrooms, or their office doesn’t even have a boardroom. Huddle spaces, open, informal, spaces to get together in the office, are becoming increasingly popular, with a third saying they use them for meetings at least once a day when in the office.

How people meet will change too. 54% of Australians have used Zoom for virtual meetings in the past six months, followed by Microsoft Teams (38%) and Skype (31%). With many Aussies set to work from home at least some of the time moving forward, meetings with virtual and in-person attendees are here to stay.

The ‘Bring Your Own Meeting’ trend that was already on the rise before COVID-19 – where employees not only want to use their own devices (Bring Your Own Device), but also their own preferred conferencing solutions – has continued apace during the pandemic. The results of the study show that the laptop is now the single most important thing in most employees’ working lives: 74% said they couldn’t bear to be parted from it while at work.

Many workers struggle with video conferencing platforms. The most common issues are being unable to connect to meeting room systems and difficulty connecting audio and video. Asked where they would like to see their employers invest, a third of respondents chose video conferencing equipment for use in meeting rooms as their preferred destination for new investment. The findings may seem surprising at first glance, until you look at how prevalent the use of video conferencing technology has become and the fundamental role it now plays in collaboration, communication and productivity for a digitally driven workforce.

When you look at what employees want to see from future meetings, it’s clear that there are high expectations for technology-driven improvements. The biggest priorities are technologies that improve efficiency and usability and streamline workflows. A third said apps for joining a video conference in one click should be available within the next year, if they aren’t already, while half of workers expect hand gestures (clapping, clicking) to control video conferencing platforms within two years.

Claudio Cardile, Managing Director, Barco Australia and New Zealand

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