After months of lockdown in Victoria and periodic lockdowns across Australia in 2020, are we going back to the office in 2021? Well, sort of.
Businesses large and small alike are not rushing back to the office. At least not at full capacity. We are trickling back to work, often in small groups, 1 or 2 days per week. Uncertainty about new outbreaks and a vaccine yet to be rolled out in Australia keeps both the public and private sector apprehensive. Moving staff between home and office is costly.
The public and private sector will inevitably have fixed day team models where only a percentage of the workforce is in the office on any given day.
But is the trend here to stay? If large corporates are a lead indicator, then yes. The office landscape has changed. These hybrid models may become permanent, long after COVID. Westpac plans to extend its hybrid arrangement moving forward even after Australia has been vaccinated.
The commonwealth bank of Australia has a 50% occupancy target by mid-January in Melbourne and Sydney.
Telstra encourages all staff that can work from home to continue to do so, despite no requirements from the health department. For Telstra, it’s much cheaper for call centre staff to work from home. Productivity is monitored online regardless of where staff are located. With advancements in technology, call centres are arguably redundant in 2021.
90% of ANZ’s workforce are still working from home. Staff that do return to the office will be met with a very different office space including ‘feet markers in lifts that instruct people to stand looking at walls, rather than inwards’.
Temperature checks, rethinking hot-desking, meeting room layouts, room capacity, and personal protection screens will all need to be considered moving forward.
Safe Work Australia provides guidelines for transitioning staff back to the office which includes advice on organising a workstation assessment for workers transitioning back to the usual workplace.
For small to mediums, it’s complicated. Not only must we redesign our workspaces, update our policies and workplace checklists, we need also consider the ramifications that come with change.
It was only a year ago that we were focused on providing a happy, healthy and productive green space for our staff. In 2021, all eyes are on COVID safe workplaces. The changes required to make this happen may just include more staff working from home permanently.