The expectations of the future of work: employers vs employees

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The expectations of the future of work: employers vs employees
Businesses that consistently invest in their employees by resourcing them to work in an effective work environment will reap the benefits.
Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

Working from home for much of the past 18 months has been as much of a learning experience for organisations as it has been for employees.

It’s suggesting a future in which work is seen as an activity, rather than a place you go.

As the pandemic unfolded through the beginning of 2020, working from home became a necessity for the millions of Australians with office jobs and in similar roles. Like many COVID consequences at that time, workers and employers thought it would be temporary, with a return to the office likely just around the corner.

However, as lockdowns and outbreaks continue to occur and evolve, it has become apparent that this new way of working is here to stay. ‘Hybrid’ and ‘flexibility’ are now common terms, as the Australian workplace transforms into a concept that seemingly will not be going back to the way things were.

Leaders who have a finger on the pulse of this transition are planning to adopt a trusted hybrid workplace, one that features seamlessly enabled technology, is collaborative and inclusive in nature, and which supports employees no matter when or where they choose to work.

Bridging the gap between employers and employees

Many workers have benefitted from greater flexibility, avoiding long commutes, being closer to family during times of concern, and proving that there is the capacity to work remotely in a productive way that’s relatively seamless.

Employees are keen to preserve the convenience, flexibility and adaptability that remote work promises, with many unwilling to return to office-based work on a full-time basis. In several cases, Australian employees have made major life decisions, such as moving to the country, based on the new opportunity for flexible work.

As a result, there is a notable divergence between the expectations of decision-makers and employees regarding the return to work. According to our latest research, 56 percent of leaders expect an increase in employee time spent at the office, however, when looking at employee expectations, the figure falls to just 26 percent.

If employees don’t want to go back into the office, this is a problem for employers who want to create a hybrid workplace that includes physical in-person elements.   

Decision-makers need to engage and align with their employees to better understand their expectations. Forward-thinking sectors are already recognising an opportunity to fully support remote work programs to tap into a vast and global talent pool, simultaneously creating greater business agility while gaining significant cost savings.

Beyond talent benefits, 99 per cent of decision-makers in the workplace see the advantage of virtual meetings, which deliver additional time and cost savings, as well as enabling meetings to take place seamlessly across time zones.

Rethinking how work is done through technology

Australian organisations that want to flourish in the ‘new normal’ must start taking steps now to prepare for a significant increase in hybrid collaboration and take a long-term view on how to set up their businesses for a permanent shift to hybrid work.

With our latest findings revealing that end users today spend on average seven hours per week in virtual meetings– an increase of two hours per week in just the last year – successful businesses will be defined by their ability to support people with the right technology solutions, appropriately tailored to needs and expectations.

The workplace of the future demands virtual tools that boost employee productivity, enhance human interaction, increase professionalism, and help businesses reach a gold standard of hybrid working, all while factoring in employee wellbeing and inclusivity.

These technology solutions are ones that bridge the digital and the physical worlds and create a real, robust, and rich virtual experience as if employees are interacting with their colleagues in the office.

It’s clear that many of the pain points of virtual work stem from a lack of realistic interaction. Our research shows that 89 percent of employees cite bad audio or visual tech experiences as a challenge in hybrid working, with the most common experience issues including misunderstanding what’s being said in a meeting, missing out on critical information, or appearing unprofessional because of poor sound experiences.

Businesses that consistently invest in their employees by resourcing them to work in an effective work environment will reap the benefits in innovation and productivity – and by attracting a better workforce. This is not new information to business leaders, with our research revealing that 77 percent believe the right technology can overcome collaboration experience issues and, furthermore, they are prepared to make necessary investments in equipment and infrastructure.

What we’d called the ‘new normal’ for around a year has now become just ‘normal’. The hybrid model offers huge advantages for businesses and their employees, but only if challenges surrounding communication and collaboration are met. It’s time to figure out what technology works, what management practices fit, and how to refine the existing processes. Technology provides an answer, if businesses invest wisely.

Geoff Crane is ANZ Sales Director at EPOS.

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