Government urges return to office 'as soon as possible'

'As our economy continues to recover, it is important that Australian workplaces get back to normal as quickly as possible'

Government urges return to office 'as soon as possible'

With the borders reopening and positive signs for economic recovery, the Federal Government is urging employers to bring their staff back to the office as quickly as possible.

Federal industrial relations minister Christian Porter told Fairfax Media it is important that Australian workplaces get back to normal as quickly as possible, which includes “getting staff back into the office where it is safe to do so and local health restrictions allow”.

The Coalition Government has consistently urged Victoria to move faster in lifting restrictions, however the state’s lockdown rules state that people who can work from home should do so.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) recently became one of the first major employers in Australia to encourage staff to return to the office, aiming to have buildings at 40% capacity within the next few weeks.

NAB sent an email to its 34,000 workers outlining plans for all staff outside of Victoria to "safely" return to their offices, after introducing work from home arrangements in mid-March as COVID-19 restrictions were introduced nationwide.

In the email, NAB said: “By returning to the office, we want to start again unlocking the benefits of in-person collaboration, such as better innovating for customers, learning from each other, problem solving together, mentoring and building our high-performance culture”.

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"But importantly, we will not be returning to the way things were before the pandemic. COVID-19 has challenged us all to think, work and act differently and we want to ensure that we retain the best of what we’ve learnt – and get back to something even better."

While many organisations have been keen to return their staff to the office, research suggests that many employees have enjoyed remote working arrangements.

Research by Citrix has found that more than half of Australian office workers (56%) said they would be willing to accept a pay cut in return for a 100% remote role, while post-lockdown, those who see big city living as beneficial to their career opportunities and progression has fallen from 49% to 33%.

Nearly half (49%) of Australian office workers believe their productivity levels are higher when working from home; an increase of 16% compared to March this year (total = 33%). Additionally, 44% Australian office workers have abandoned city dwellings, or plan to do so because they can work remotely.

At Victorian-based Vinomofo, the company have been following the "if you can work from home, you should work from home instruction".

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“We’ve always had a flexible working culture and that won't change, but I think many of us are looking forward to being back together again,” said Robyn Djelassi, head of people & operations at Vinomofo.

“We will be moving into new premises in Melbourne soon and have already turned our minds to ensuring that we retain physical distance. Our floor plan has been mapped and we know how many staff we can accommodate with a four-metre-squared space for each.”

Once the COVID-19 pandemic dies down, Vinomofo’s plan is to implement flexible work “where it makes sense”.

“We have proven that working remotely can not only be done but be done really well for Vinomofo,” Djelassi told HRD.

“We will continue with our flexible work and look forward to welcoming the team back when we can.” 

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