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Is this the end of business travel?

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More than half of Australian business leaders are perceived to have 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 from global recruitment firm, Robert Walters.

A survey of over 1,000 Australian professionals revealed only 36% of Australian organisations had implemented work from home practices within 1-2 days of the COVID-19 outbreak, compared to 68% in the US, 57% in New Zealand, 52% in the UK and 50% in Japan.

Furthermore, 60% of respondents believed senior leaders preference to traditional ways of working is a barrier to enabling more employees to work from home. While the survey also found 60% of organisations were impacted by technology problems impacting their ability to set up remote working practices.

James Nicholson, Managing Director of Robert Walters ANZ 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, whilst 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.

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“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,” said Mr Nicholson.

While 50% of professionals felt that working from home prior to the COVID-19 outbreak was an exception rather than the rule, in positive news 76% of organisations believed 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. 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 (see below graph),” Mr Nicholson said.

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

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

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