For the second year running, Bastion Reputation and Bastion Insights have released the Future of Work (Adapting to the New Normal) report, which explores Australian employer and employee attitudes towards hybrid working. 

Here our Head of Training and Capability, Michele Fonseca, outlines some of the key findings and also shares some tips for how to make working life more sustainable and enjoyable in 2022. 

Drawing on the responses of 600 employees and 500 employers, the Future of Work report backs up everything we’ve been hearing for some time from around the world, about the Great Resignation.  

In fact, our research indicates that Australian businesses risk bringing on their own Great Resignation, if they mandate a return to set days in the office next year. 

For two in five employees surveyed, control over where and when they work is their most important consideration. For some, this is even more important than getting a pay rise.   

Employees will look for a new job if they need to and with demand for labour outstripping supply, they have reason to feel confident. The message for employers seems clear – they’ll need to work smarter and harder to retain and attract top talent. 

Longer term, employers will also need to keep a close eye on workplace diversity and inclusion. One in five female employees surveyed and three in five older employees surveyed are unlikely to want to return to the office – a trend that potentially points to future offices which skew towards male workers and younger workers.  

More broadly, the results show that both employers and employees have largely “normalised” the experience of working in a state of uncertainty and disruption. For example, employers seem to be more positive about the impacts of hybrid working on workplace culture, teamwork and collaboration.  

This is a change from last year’s survey, when the shift to new ways of working was challenging and stressful for them.  

So, as we prepare for a year of what’s likely to be hybrid working in many workplaces, here are my simple suggestions for how to set ourselves up for success. 

Work with purpose 

Let’s face it. “I spent most of my time on video calls” is not the way we want to think back on our professional life in 2021. 

But the theme I heard more than anything this year from friends, colleagues and clients was the fatigue (and occasional tedium) they’ve experienced spending their days in back-to-back video meetings. I heard stories from people who regularly present in online meetings where most of the participants are off camera and mute, so the presenters aren’t really sure if anyone is actually watching or listening. Others told of how they send online meeting invitations without checking on availability, knowing full well that everyone’s calendars will already be jam-packed – if anyone dials in to the meeting, it’s a bonus. 

This leads me to New Year’s Resolution #1 – lead by example to work in sustainable ways  

Begin the conversation within your team about having fewer online meetings. Check yourself every time you schedule a video meeting. Do you even need the meeting? Could the issue be resolved with a phone call, an email or a quick SMS? If it needs to be a video meeting, think about making it a 20-minute meeting rather than 30 minutes, or 50 minutes rather than one hour. Your colleagues will thank you for the more focused discussion which a shorter meeting results in and they’ll be even more grateful for the rest stop you’ve delivered them before their next meeting. 

While on the subject of purpose, try to make those days you are in the office about people and relationships. When thinking about why you are going into the office, there really is no greater purpose than this. So try to use office time to get to know new colleagues better, to build connections across your business, to have creative brainstorming sessions, to do performance reviews. Ideally those days when you’re at home are where you can focus on “getting the work done”. 

Work with presence 

Another common theme I heard was that after so long switching between working virtually and in-person, we’re not really showing up at our best in either world.  

So here’s my suggestion for New Year’s Resolution #2 – be present in whatever space you’re working in 

In 2022, challenge yourself to work differently. Try to give your full attention to your in-person meetings and when communicating online, give that your all too – that means suppressing the urge to quietly check your emails or the cricket scores. All that multi-tasking sends your audience a pretty clear message that you’re not really listening to them or that your mind is elsewhere. 

I’ve also heard many people say it’s impossible to build strong relationships online. Well yes, and no. I’m a firm believer that you can build fantastic connections online. The catch is that you need to work harder to be “in the moment” with the other person. And that takes a good dose of self-awareness (am I genuinely listening to and hearing this person and showing them curiosity and empathy?) and self-discipline (am I truly focused on this conversation or am I also trying to check my phone, my emails and my LinkedIn feed?). 

Small changes, big impact 

Whatever your working arrangements look like in 2022, invest some time now in thinking about how to make them work best for you, and how you in turn can be at your best for your team.  

I hope you’ll find that a few simple changes go a long way.