More connected, more inclusive, more democratic: The transformation happening across Aussie workplaces.

by Vicky Skipp

New research shows Australian employees feel more connected with HQ and each other after the pandemic. In a new era of hybrid working, how can business leaders keep employee needs at the top of the agenda?

It’s almost 18 months since Australia was forced into a national lockdown that changed how we work forever. It created challenges for business leaders looking to develop and enhance strategies to best support employees, manage disruption and pivot business models.

Employees have also had to deal with traditional ways of working being turned upside down overnight. And not just the practicalities of switching real-life to virtual. Many questions arose about how connected they felt to their organization, how their business will continue to support their diverse range of needs, and what happens next as businesses transition to hybrid working models.

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Australian office workers feel more connected despite lockdowns

We wanted to understand these attitudes to the changing workplace in more detail, so we asked 1,000 Australian office workers in a recent survey. Here’s what they told us.

More connected to HQ than ever

Despite periods of extended lockdown and isolation, and with many employees now returning to hybrid workplace arrangements, 3 in 4 (72%) office workers said they feel just as connected or more connected to HQ than they did before COVID-19.

Impressively, 1 in 5 Aussies office workers (21%) said they feel more connected with HQ than before COVID-19. One retailer, Kathmandu, believes communication was key to ensuring the organization could stay connected with people as many stores had to temporarily shut.

“As we worked through the COVID pandemic challenges, it was essential that our entire team felt informed, reassured and valued. Collaboration tools have enabled us to connect with our whole team, and include every team member in communication, consultation, and collaborative idea generation opportunities.

"Collaborating with our team has enabled us to introduce a range of flexible working options that support our team to participate fully in the business while balancing the other things that are also important to them – their personal passions, family and getting ‘out there’ and enjoying the outdoors”.

- Rebecca Edwards: Kathmandu General Manager - People, Capability & Safety

Businesses made a concerted effort to be more inclusive

Office headquarters across the country ramped up efforts to be more inclusive and employees took note. More than half (54%) of office workers said that their employer is now making a bigger effort to ensure people from all backgrounds and job roles feel like they belong in their organization.

Of the 1 in 5 office workers who said they now feel more connected with HQ, that figure spiked to 84%. A parent of three, Olivia Spelman is also Flight Centre Travel Groups (FCTG) Change and Communications Manager. She used Workplace to build new connections and used it to get to know her colleagues throughout the pandemic.

“FCTG has an inclusive culture, and because of the way we have embraced Workplace I feel connected whether I am working remotely or in the office at work. I make online work connections through Workplace Live events, chat and global web conferencing tools.

"Through these online connections, I enjoy getting to know colleagues’ children and pets, wherever they were around the world. Even my children have made a couple of guest appearances!”

- Olivia Spelman, FCTG

COVID’s legacy could be softening the office hierarchy

A breakdown in traditional office hierarchies could be forming with 1 in 7 (14%) employees saying their office is now less hierarchical than before COVID-19. The leading factors attributed to breaking down the office hierarchy were:

  • Less formal communication channels such as messaging apps/platforms (54%)
  • Greater flexibility improving work-life balance (52%)
  • A more casual communications tone between team members (48%)

Flight Centre also believes that the breaking down of hierarchy starts with two-way communication.

“A great thing we learned through Workplace is the ability to have people comment directly on senior leaders' and executives’ posts and get responses. It really removes any barriers of hierarchy. I feel really positive that we’ve created a workspace where people can interact with anybody in the organisation instantly and get responded to. That’s a great thing.”

- Allisa O'Connell, Head of People & Culture at Flight Centre Travel Group

Success for the future? It’s not Rocket Science

We learned that during the pandemic that the future belongs to connected companies. It’s never been more important for leadership teams to be human and authentic. As we move into a new era of working, it’s critical that leaders continue to show care for their employees and be more proactive in their outreach and communication.

How we work has changed forever, but that's not all bad. Strong, purposeful employee engagement that makes employees feel included not only helps keep everyone connected but can also be a business differentiator.

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