We’re now living in times where remote working is no longer a deal-sweetener offered by employers, but a national requirement. But even before this public health outbreak hit, statistics indicated that this trend was on the up.
A joint research report conducted before the public health crisis emerged and launched on April 8th by Zoom Video Communications and work management platform, Asana, has revealed surprising attitudes towards remote working amongst Australian employees.
According to the research, which surveyed working Australians on their attitudes towards remote working before the public health crisis hit, one in four Australian workers believed their colleagues were ‘slacking off’ when working remotely.
This surprising figure was revealed despite separate figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics highlighting that in 2019 –before the public health crisis hit – over 30% of people regularly worked from home.
In addition to findings around attitudes to remote working, the research highlighted a stark difference between the number of employees who had a remote working policy in place versus the number of those taking it up.
What exactly did this research by Zoom and Asana find out?
Of the employees surveyed, 63% reported having a flexible working policy in their workplace, with 48% saying they would have liked to utilise the policy 1-2 days per week. However, nearly half (47%) of respondents said they had never worked remotely, and just 17% of employees surveyed stated they were able to work remotely 1-2 days a week.
The apparent discrepancy between how employees wanted to work and the realities of how they were working pre COVID-19 indicates that previously, some organisations may not have had the right culture or technology in place to support remote working arrangements.
Indeed, a quarter (25%) of respondents cited not being able to collaborate effectively as being a key barrier to adopting flexible work practices, along with having ‘inadequate technology’ (21%).
Further, 23% said that face-to-face interaction being essential for their job was a factor in deciding not to work remotely. According to the report, 70% of Aussie workers said video conferencing helped them to collaborate and feel connected when working remotely, while 60% said the same about workforce management platforms.
What do these research findings mean?
Michael Chetner, Head of APAC at Zoom, said:”We now find ourselves in the biggest remote working experiment the world has ever seen, and it presents an opportunity for employers and employees to stress test this set-up and identify what their pain points are when it comes to allowing employees to remote work.
“Ultimately, it all comes down to trust, understanding and having the right tools in place. Often, different people work best in different environments, depending on their personality. Having a flexible working policy in place – beyond times of the current public health crisis – will not only help to boost employee wellbeing, but also empower them to choose which setting makes them most productive.
“But if employers want to successfully pull off a remote working set-up, they need to have the right technology in place to facilitate this. Our research highlighted that pre COVID-19, 1 in 5 organisations weren’t fully equipped to make remote working possible. Now, that number is likely to look a lot different as employers are forced to quickly adapt their business operations.
Thanks to tools like video conferencing technology, the lack of face time and regular interaction you might associate with a remote-working set-up need no longer be a concern.
“When it comes to video conferencing, managers should not only encourage it solely for ‘chatting shop’, but also to enable those ‘watercooler’ moments, where teams can talk more casually about things like what series they’ve been watching or how their family is doing. This is key to driving an inclusive, engaged workforce where no one feels isolated or left out.”
Adam Chicktong, General Manager of APAC, Asana, said: ”Now, more than ever before, companies need the 3 C’s – communication, collaboration and coordination – to ensure their teams have the structure, visibility and tools to be successful no matter where they’re working.
“With industries around the world grappling with the new realities of remote work, it’s clear that the artefacts of the old ways of working – in-person status meetings, email and spreadsheets – simply don’t scale to meet our needs.
“We believe this represents a tremendous opportunity for organisations to lead a technology transformation that helps teams streamline their processes and better orchestrate their work giving them valuable time back in their day to focus on what matters most.
“Work management and collaboration platforms provide teams with the clarity of knowing who is doing what and by when, which, sounds simple, but in reality is what most organisations struggle with on a daily basis. This is ultimately what the right technology platforms can solve for businesses today.”
Highlighted by the report was the importance of flexible working options for employees when it comes to making decisions about a role, with 67% of respondents saying that more flexible work opportunities would make them more likely to remain with their current employer.
The research clearly points to remote working being a competitive addition to an employer’s benefit package. Whether or not remote working on a grand scale is a trend that will continue beyond times of social distancing remains to be seen, but certainly, businesses will now be more equipped to facilitate it than ever before.