Work from home Australia: Big change coming to employees in 2024

The days of working from home may soon be numbered for some people, with many employers expecting a full-time return to the office in 2024.

An estimated 60 per cent of workers cannot do their job from home because they need to be physically present to perform their duties, such as medical staff and tradies.

But the Covid-19 pandemic showed working from home was doable for desk-bound workers and had many benefits.

However, a few years on from the start of the pandemic, some bosses are now keen to fill their workplaces more consistently with staff again.

Of course, the perk of working from home remains popular among people searching for a job, so some employers — often in industries where it is hard to retain staff — are including it as an option, but for the large part, many are not encouraging it.

Some companies have even started linking bonuses and performance reviews to the number of days staff spend in the office.

Many businesses have an expectation that staff will be in the office at least 40 or 50 per cent of the time.

But in 2024, some experts predict there will be an even greater push for people to be physically present with their colleagues.

Angela Ferguson, founder of workplace strategy and design company Futurespace, told NCA NewsWire more leaders were expecting a full-time return to the office in 2024.

But she said it would be important to motivate, not mandate it with creative in-office incentives and renovations.

“Leaders should look at why they want people in the office,” she said.

“The key to a successful culture/workspace environment lies in providing opportunities for people to connect while retaining some autonomy.

“Incentives to work from the office will be vastly different for individuals, teams and organisations, and the key to getting this right for any organisation is to understand their people’s needs from the experience of work.”

Ms Ferguson said face-to-face interactions improved productivity, engagement, connection and culture.

“Many leaders are asking staff to come in two or three days a week, which is not an unreasonable request,” she said.

“However, we often find in our engagement with organisations that there is a disconnect or a gap between what staff are seeking and what leadership are seeking in terms of days in the office.

“It’s not only about productivity, it’s also about mental and social wellbeing.

“No matter how introverted people are, as humans we all need some social connection and the workplace is a great environment to foster that.”

Ms Ferguson noted remote working was successful during the pandemic but had some “frustrations and foibles”.

“Now that we are in this world of hybrid, it’s a much more nuanced environment and so people, place and technology all need to adapt and adjust accordingly,” she said.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter approach and each organisation will be very different.”

Ms Ferguson said workplaces should cater for all sorts of working styles.

“The best workplaces have a diverse mix of spaces — single person rooms, soundproof spaces and collaborative breakout rooms — available for everyone to use in the way that suits them best,” she said.

“So you are catering for both individual and team needs throughout the physical environment.”

Ms Ferguson said the biggest complaint her team’s research showed was that technology was not “plug and play”.

“In many cases, staff want their organisation to get the basics right first before other things like AI, VR, AR are investigated,” she said.

“Better tech-enabled spaces means being able to seamlessly work from anywhere in the office, move from desk to meeting room easily, connect remotely or work from home without any issues.

“Tech support on-site is also a key desire for many staff.”

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