The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to close offices and help workers find new ways to communicate and collaborate, and new data from the Australia Talks National Survey 2021 suggests the change will stick. The survey, fielded in early March, asked people how many hours they worked from home prior to the pandemic, at the height of the pandemic, and at present.
Before the pandemic, half of the respondents did absolutely no working from home: zero hours. Almost a third (31 per cent) did anywhere from an hour a day to eight hours or more. But at the height of the crisis, the "zero hours" group shrunk to just one third, as more people experimented with working from home.
The data suggests the workforce is now closer to an even split, with around 43 per cent of respondents working some hours at home, and 37 per cent working none. The amount of people working from home full-time, eight hours or more per day, has tripled from 4 per cent previously to 12 per cent now.
For workers like Kirsti Taylor, there's no going back from working from home.
"I love having a bit more work-life balance, I loved having a bit more freedom," said Kirsti, the manager of a product team with Compass.
"For me, I love spending more time with the dog, you know, like go for walks at lunch time, being able to have lunch with my partner, which we would never normally do."
Ms Taylor's work is now tailored to where she's based. On 'home office' days, she's more likely to start earlier, and use time during the day to do errands – "like run to the doctors or put the car in to get serviced" – whereas days in the physical office are centred on team-based work.
"The 'office days' tend to be more collaborative, more talking to people and being a bit more 'whiteboardy'. It's a bit more of a social thing. You can have more interaction with people and that's really nice," she said.
During the pandemic, Compass moved to a bigger building that accommodates staff like Kirsti having a desk, but also includes more team-based areas for meetings and intensive work.
"It felt a bit counterintuitive, we're in this COVID period, no-one's in the office, and we're out there looking for larger spaces," Compass Education chief executive John de la Motte said.
"We want people to be able to come into the office, whether it's for one or two days. We want to have people interacting, we want to have them in spaces where they have the ability to kind of 'break out' to draw on a board," Mr de la Motte said.
"But then we want them to be in an area where they feel like they've got a nice social element as well."
The flexibility Kristi enjoys has been adopted by many of the Compass team, and so far, so good. Compass believes happy staff are more productive and more likely to stay, and that improves the customer experience. How? Experienced staff, staff of several years tenure, tend to better understand the needs of the customer; whether that's the response on a customer support call, a new product development, or a product improvement; solutions come from a deeper connection to the people using the product and understanding their needs.
Whether you call it work-life balance, hybrid work, or flexi-work, we see it's a win-win-win for staff, Compass and all Compass users.
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