The upsides of remote working, as reported by you
With Google to the latest industry leader encouraging staff to work from home and everyone from newsreaders to politicians dialling in to their jobs digitally, is coming into the office truly a thing of the past? Are we ready to swap the lace-ups for the ugg boots, the meeting room for the spare room, the sensible slacks for the trackie pants?
Well, maybe not just yet. There are still plenty of jobs that need to be done on-site – especially in the APS where many of us are still coming into the office to provide vital services for Australians.
And for plenty of people working from home has presented a unique set of challenges. Some staff have really missed the camaraderie and socialisation of seeing their teammates every day, while others enjoy the routine and structure that a regular workday brings. Some of our new workmates, whether they be partners, pets or kids, could be equally as distracting as they were comforting, and being confined to close quarters for so long took its toll.
But our discussions in the HR network suggested that many of you are also seeing the upsides of working from home. So is there a middle ground to be achieved? As we get ready to start supporting our agencies with their transition back to a new kind of normal, what lessons can we take from our time spent out of the office?
To help us answer these questions, we’ve compiled a list of some of the upsides you said you’d experienced while working remotely. Have a read and see how many you can relate to, and if there might be ways you can help your staff keep some of these benefits as they head back to the office.
A more flexible work schedule
We all know the feeling – can I hit the snooze button one more time? Well for some of us, now we can, with freedom from the morning commute making mornings a bit more relaxed. For others, the bonus minutes back in the schedule go to nobler causes, like spending time with the family or picking up new hobbies.
Many of you also pointed to another upside of not having a commute: having a bit of cash back in your pocket. Now instead of paying for the privilege to be stuck in gridlock or a cold train of a morning or handing over a few dollars for an overpriced sandwich at lunch, many of us have welcomed having a bit of extra pocket money.
This might seem counter-intuitive to those of us reading this lying on our bed in our pyjama pants (which I’m sure isn’t many of us . . .), but for a lot of people their home office is a sanctuary where they feel more productive than ever. The opportunity to set up a truly personalised workspace, away from distractions, has proved beneficial to the wellbeing of many of our APS colleagues.
Feeling more relaxed
Of course, we all take lunchbreaks when we work in the office – but we usually don’t spend them baking cakes, playing with our pets or kids or saying hi to our neighbours. Many of you reported feeling more relaxed while working from home, as it’s given you the chance to really focus on your work-life balance and make the most of your spare time.
Getting more done around the house
Remember those days when you’d walk out the door thinking, “this would have been a good day to get the washing done”? Not a problem when working from home. While of course work time is work time, being at home during breaks and our usual commuting time has made it easier to get done those little tasks that always just seemed so hard to get around to.
Enjoying the company of our four-legged colleagues
For the pet-lovers amongst us, this one needs no explanation. The presence of a four-legged (or two-legged, or finned, or scaled) friend can be entertaining, comforting, relaxing and motivating. Not only did many of you report enjoying the additional hours spent in the company of your animal pal, we also heard a lot of love from the non-pet-parents who have enjoyed getting glimpses of cute critters on the other end of video hook-ups.
Greater connection to colleagues from other offices
With agencies spread across the country, APS teams often have to work harder that most to forge those important social connections. Many of you – especially those separated from a team mostly in another city or state – reported feeling more connected to your colleagues than ever, as the physical distancing forced you to make socialisation a priority. We’ve had reports of team quizzes, virtual morning teas and even dress-up days from teams determined not to let the pandemic get in the way of fun.
As the gradual easing of restrictions continues across the states and territories, it may not be too much longer until many of us are back in the office. But there’s no reason why we can’t make the most of the lessons we’ve learned and try to preserve some of the things that our staff have enjoyed during their stint at home. As HR professionals it will be our job to drive that, and we need to be ready to lead the way in defining the new normal.
APSC Commissioner Peter Woolcott has highlighted the importance of using the past few months as a catalyst for lasting change, writing that: “What's happening in terms of the way we work across the system — in terms of our mobility, in terms of our collaboration, in terms of our innovation — these are all things we want to lock in.”
So as we prepare to help staff transition back to the office, let’s make sure we’re thinking about how we can make some of the items on this list a regular fixture of working life.