Aussie workers anxious about return to office

RingCentral Australia

Monday, 20 December, 2021


Aussie workers anxious about return to office

A new research study (conducted by RingCentral) has found that while the majority of Australian workers (81%) believe that the freedom to work from anywhere is now the norm for all relevant industries, 63% anticipate that in 2022 they will be returning back to the office to work.

The survey also revealed considerable anxiety about a possible return to the office. Over half of Australians (56%) have not met their colleagues in person due to COVID and, of this group, 60% are anxious about meeting their co-workers for the first time in person. This is likely driven by fears of potential exposure to COVID, with 78% of the Australian workforce believing that those that return to in-person workplace models should be vaccinated. As a consequence, over half (65%) of full-time Australian workers claim that Delta and other variants have made them more likely to consider other employers that allow remote work.

“A lot has already been discussed about the ‘Great Resignation’ both here in Australia and also internationally, but I’m not sure we will see it playing out here in any significant way — provided organisations continue to follow their stated commitment to permanent hybrid and flexible work arrangements,” said Peter Hughes, Regional Vice President of Sales, RingCentral.

“While Australian workers have some anxiety about returning to the office, our survey also found that business decision-makers have experienced first-hand the benefits of working from anywhere, so they are unlikely to change their decision about supporting a hybrid working model.”

The survey found that 73% of business decision-makers1 believe that business travel for conferences or trade shows will now be unnecessary. Also, a large majority of them (83%) claim that there is increased freedom to work from anywhere. They are also almost two times more likely than non-business decision-makers to believe both that workplace collaboration tools can make them feel professionally connected and that video facilitates better personal relationships with co-workers.

That’s evidenced by how enthusiastically business decision-makers have embraced remote collaboration: 77% believe they can build personal relationships with co-workers without ever physically meeting them, 76% feel that connecting online through voice or video calls is as good as in person for work-related tasks and 74% that connecting online through voice or video calls is as good as in person for building personal relationships with co-workers.

The survey was conducted by RingCentral in collaboration with Ipsos, a multinational market research and consulting firm, and questioned 9000 workers in five countries, including 2000 respondents in Australia. The survey was conducted with a desire to understand the impact of the pandemic on the workforce across various elements including, but not limited to, isolation, loneliness, a desire to connect, meeting new colleagues, confidence in return to office plans and others.

The results also bring to light some concerns on the impact of remote work on individual workers, and the importance organisations need to place on employee inclusivity and engagement programs. Some highlights include:

  • Isolation: 52% of Australian full-time workers who worked hybridly or remotely during COVID felt more isolated or lonely at work.
  • Impact of loneliness on remote and hybrid workers: Of Australian full-time workers who feel isolated or lonely due to remote work, 38% say that it has had an impact on their overall mental health, 35% that it has had an impact on how much enthusiasm they have for their job and 31% on the connections with their co-workers.
  • Desire to connect more: 42% of Australian workers say that social distancing through COVID has made them want to connect more with their work colleagues (for 50% there is no change and just 8% say they want to connect less).
     

Conversely, the survey also found that 1 in 3 Australian full-time workers are happier with their job since the pandemic began, and more than two-thirds (69%) say working hybridly or remotely during COVID made them more empathetic towards people. Parents who work full-time (43%) are nearly twice as likely as their non-parent counterparts (23%) to be happier with their jobs now.

Additional survey highlights include:

1. The Great Divide:

Full-time working parents vs non-parents are roughly twice as likely to:

  • be happier with their jobs now (43% vs 23%);
  • say that the COVID pandemic has had a positive impact on their relationship with colleagues (43% vs 20%), and also on improving the relationship with their supervisor (40% vs 20%);
  • believe their manager has become more effective since the pandemic started (48% vs 24%).
     

Business decision-makers vs non-business decision-makers:

  • prefer working in an office (40% vs 46%);
  • believe that business communication and collaboration tools have helped them feel more connected with co-workers during the pandemic (72% vs 38%);
  • feel that video meetings allow them to be more professionally connected (66% vs 31%) and personally connected (63% vs 27%) with their colleagues;
  • are likely to seek new employment if forced back to the office (30% vs 19%).
     

2. The feelings of return to work ring true across the world

  • In Australia, 86% of workers and in France, 74% of workers believe their employers are making their work environments as safe as possible to reduce their risk of contracting COVID.
  • 58% of Australian and 56% of American workers would still rather work from home than in the office.
  • In France, the majority of French parents are more likely to consider remote work.
  • In the UK, while 84% of workers are confident in their employer’s return to work plans, 66% of office workers claimed that they prefer to continue working from home as opposed to in the office.
  • In the US, while 90% are confident in their employer’s return to work plans, 80% of Americans believe they currently have the freedom to work from anywhere but only 12% believe they will have the same freedom in 2022.
  • In Germany, while 93% of workers are confident in their employer’s return to work plans, 1 in 3 still expect to work from home.
     

3. Human connection has changed forever but not vanished:

The study has found that there is a certain sense of stability and positivity in today’s workers. While 80% of Australians say that the way they connect with other people has changed, people are feeling settled and stable in their current environments.

  • 69% say that working hybridly or remotely during COVID has made them more empathetic toward people.
  • 71% say connecting online through voice or video calls is as good as in person for work-related tasks.
  • 66% of Australian workers believe that voice or video calls can be as effective as in-person communication for building personal relationships with co-workers.
  • 82% say that their colleagues who use voice communications are more connected to each other.
     

1 Business decision-makers are defined as those with senior titles, influence purchases and hiring, have financial responsibility and approve work schedules for employees.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/olezzo

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