Employers in Australia adopt varied strategies amidst remote work debate
In the face of considerable opposition, employers throughout Australia are making significant efforts to encourage employees to return to physical workplaces, with a growing sentiment that remote work should be regarded as a privilege earned.
A recent report from the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills highlights the diverse strategies Australian employers are employing to facilitate employees’ return to the office. According to Natalie Gaspar, a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, various approaches are being implemented, ranging from gentle encouragement like team lunches, team gatherings, and extracurricular activities on specific days to more direct mandates, such as requiring employees to be present in the office on specific weekdays.
While only a small number of organizations are insisting on a complete return to in-person work, most are continuing to endorse flexible working arrangements. A majority of these employers are redefining core working hours to accommodate remote work (63%), and a significant proportion plan to assess employee performance based on productivity rather than the number of hours worked (68%), as indicated by the Herbert Smith Freehills report.
The motivation behind this approach may be attributed to the positive outcomes associated with hybrid work. Approximately half of the employers surveyed (49%) believe that hybrid work arrangements have enhanced access to talent from diverse geographic locations, while 68% report increased applicant diversity.
Moreover, the report reveals that 53% of employers anticipate that mandating increased in-office work would likely lead to higher activism or staff turnover. However, employers are also exploring more formal incentive structures, with nearly half (47%) believing that remote work should be a privilege granted based on trust and seniority. Additionally, a substantial portion (45%) of employers plan to differentiate compensation between remote and in-office staff in the next three to five years.
The findings are particularly interesting as they coincide with the belief of 38% of Australian employers that remote work should be considered a privilege that employees must earn through trust and seniority. Surprisingly, 13% of employers expressed support for reducing the pay and benefits of remote workers who continue to work remotely, as reported by the Daily Mail. This echoes a previous study by Robert Half, which found that 23% of Australian employers were offering lower salaries to flexible workers compared to their in-office counterparts.
The reluctance of employees to return to physical workplaces after experiencing years of remote work during the pandemic has prompted employers worldwide to adopt more assertive measures to bring staff back to offices. Major organizations like Google, Amazon, and Meta are incorporating office attendance into their hybrid work policies. A global report further indicates that 87% of employers are contemplating tying rewards, salary increases, or promotions to in-office attendance.