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Business leaders need to be more adaptive post-COVID, report shows

03 July 2020 2 minute readShare
Business leaders

Most Australian business leaders are seen as having an in-built bias towards working-from-home practices and will need to adapt quickly in order to better meet the expectations of a post-COVID workforce, according to new research.

A survey of over 1,000 Australian professionals from global recruitment firm Robert Walters revealed only 36 per cent of Australian organisations had implemented work-from-home practices within one–two days of the COVID-19 outbreak, compared with 68 per cent in the US, 57 per cent in New Zealand, 52 per cent in the UK and 50 per cent in Japan. 

Furthermore, 60 per cent of respondents believed senior leaders’ preference for traditional ways of working is a barrier to enabling more employees to work from home. 

Robert Walters’ managing director - ANZ, James Nicholson, said: “There is no doubt COVID-19 has been the biggest event to have impacted the business world since the global financial crisis. In a tremendous effort of maintaining business continuity, while at the same time ensuring the safety of their employees, business leaders made swift changes to the way they work, leading to an unprecedented acceleration in remote working.

“With many businesses now going back to the office, the changing expectations of employees in a post-COVID-19 world has meant that organisations and particularly senior leaders will need to adapt their thinking and implement what flexible working now looks like.”

While 50 per cent of professionals felt that working from home prior to the COVID-19 outbreak was an exception rather than the rule, 76 per cent now believe their leaders will use this experience to enable more employees to work from home on a regular basis. 

“For many senior leaders, the mandatory lockdown has been a trial run for embedding workplace flexibility into new ways of working,” Mr Nicholson said. 

“It is great to see that organisations are taking the need to adapt and be flexible with work practices seriously, which has been effectively demonstrated in the diverse range of back-to-the-office strategies that are being considered.”

While work-from-home priorities dominated findings, other areas that business leaders will need to quickly adapt to include:

  • 75 per cent of organisations feel their leaders will need to be more empathetic to work/life balance and what that means for individual employees
  • 69 per cent believe their leaders will need to focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office
  • 65 per cent believe their leaders need a better understanding of technology and its role in collaborative working

In further proof of the demand work-from-home practices have, the number one mental health concern for workers was commute time, with 89 per cent of respondents believing it to be the biggest drain on their mental health.

“In less than a decade, the average commute time in Australia has jumped by 23 per cent. The growth in commute time [is] obviously having an impact on employee mental health,” Mr Nicholson added.

“Increasing and maintaining flexible working arrangements that were introduced during lockdown will go a long way to increasing the health, safety and wellbeing of employees now and into the future.”

Business leaders need to be more adaptive post-COVID, report shows
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