Overwhelming, business leaders will maintain work from home arrangements for staff in response to Covid-19, with 82 per cent indicating this is their intention.

The figures are contained in a Gartner survey from early June of 127 company leaders, representing HR, Legal and Compliance, Finance and Real Estate.

For many organisations with employees working both onsite and remotely, adapting to a new, more complex hybrid workforce is the challenge to how people work together to get their job done evolves.

According to Gartner VP research and advisory for Asia Pacific, Aaron McEwan, “The question now facing Australian organisations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce.”

“Australia led the way with flexible working. More than five years on, Telstra’s All Roles Flex approach still stands as a best practice example that others have followed,” he said.

While Gartner surveys show that employee preference for remote work post-COVID in Australia is the same as the global average (53 per cent), this is an average. Aaron says that based on client conversations, we can expect the number to be much higher in knowledge industries such as financial services and tech firms.

“The shift to a hybrid workplace will change how people work together to get their job done. Businesses need to revisit their flexible work policies and ensure they will cope with this new reality,” he said.

Almost half (47 per cent) said they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time going forward. For some organisations, flex time will be the new norm as 43 per cent of survey respondents reported they will grant employees flex days, while 42 per cent will provide flex hours.

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a huge experiment in widespread remote working,” said Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice. “As business leaders plan and execute reopening of their workplaces, they are evaluating more permanent remote working arrangements as a way to meet employee expectations and to build more resilient business operations.”

Figure 1: Company leader intentions regarding flexible working after COVID-19 

Organisations that are welcoming employees back to the workplace are instituting a variety of safety measures. Respondents were nearly unanimous in planning to limit face-to-face meetings (94 per cent) and providing protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitiser (91 per cent). Eighty-three percent of respondents said they intend to limit or sequence employee attendance at the workplace.

“The question now facing many organisations is not how to manage a remote workforce, but how to manage a more complex, hybrid workforce,” said Joyce. “While remote work isn’t new, the degree of remote work moving forward will change how people work together to get their job done.”

As employers move toward a hybrid workforce, the productivity of remote employees is a frequent topic of conversation. However, just 13 per cent of business leaders voiced concerns over sustaining productivity. While 61 per cent of business leaders surveyed by Gartner have implemented more frequent manager-employee check-ins, 29 per cent report not taking any measures to track productivity remotely.

Among the challenges of managing a hybrid workforce, 30 per centof business leaders are most concerned with maintaining corporate culture. Thirteen percent of respondents reported concern over creating parity between the remote and in-office experience; 13 per cent also are concerned about providing a seamless employee experience.

“It is critical that employers get their corporate culture and employee experience right during this period of uncertainty,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “Both facets help ensure organisations achieve the financial, reputation and talent outcomes that will drive business outcomes and competitive advantage.

Gartner for HR clients can learn more by viewing the webinar Return to the Workplace: Benchmarking Against Your Peers.

Learn more about how to lead organisations through the disruption of coronavirus in the Gartner coronavirus resource center, a collection of complimentary Gartner research and webinars to help organisations respond, manage, and prepare for the rapid spread and global impact of COVID-19.

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